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My 10 Favorite Manly Actors


Here’s a list of my favorite “manly” actors from today’s movies—there’s a whole new list from yesteryear. Most of the young actors today don’t have the chops to compete with these guys in the acting or masculinity departments. Interestingly, most of these guys are known conservatives (what a coincidence). I intentionally left off Bobbie DeNiro because he’s too obvious and he’s been in too many bad movies lately. Although with classic movies like Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, The Deer Hunter, Goodfellas, A Bronx Tale, and Godfather part II, he definitely deserves to be on the list.

Robert Duvall: Perhaps one of the best actors of all time—he’s been in a ton of movies. If he is in a movie you can just about bet it will be good. He’s been in some of the greatest movies of all time. Coincidence—I think not.

Movies: To Kill a Mocking Bird, Godfather parts I & II, True Grit, Apocalypse Now, The Natural, Lonesome Dove, The Great Santini, Tender Mercies, Secondhand Lions, and Open Range.

Liam Neeson: Another “manly” guy who’s been in some great movies. An Irishman, he’s also got a great voice as evidenced by being the voice of Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia movies. Besides anyone who can make a great movie like Taken, deserves to be on this list.

Movies: Schindler’s List, Rob Roy, Kingdom of Heaven, Taken, Star Wars Episode II, Batman Begins, Seraphim Falls, and The Grey.

Daniel Day-Lewis: I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a movie where Daniel Day-Lewis didn’t take over the screen. Also an Englishman/Irishman. He’s an intense guy, remaining in “character” during filming. He’s also probably pretty private as you never hear anything about him. Reportedly he’s very selective in the films he makes, often waiting five years between roles.

Movies: My Left Foot, There Will Be Blood, Gangs of New York, Last of the Mohicans, The Crucible, and The Boxer.

Pierce Brosnan: I’m not sure why there are so many Irishmen on my list, but here’s another. Earlier in his career (during his Remington Steele days) I was not that impressed with him, but as he’s gotten older I find myself enjoying the range of acting he provides. He seems to have worked hard at his craft over the years to become better. He hasn’t been in many great movies but I find myself enjoying him in small parts when I see him. He produced and acted in a little known film called, Evelyn, which was a wonderful movie—catch it if you can find it.

Movies: The Thomas Crown Affair, four James Bond movies, Seraphim Falls, The Matador, and Bag of Bones.

Sam Elliott: Best voice in movies today hands down. Not since Robert Mitchum has an actor’s voice been so distinctive. Great in any “manly” role from cowboy to biker to soldier. Classic supporting performances in Mask and We Were Soldiers. Beef—it’s what’s for dinner.

Movies: The Shadow Riders, Mask, the Quick and the Dead, Conagher, Tombstone, The Big Lebowski, and We Were Soldiers.

Tom Selleck: A former male model and beach volleyball player, but still a “manly” guy. Never been afraid to sport facial hair either. Starred in the TV series Magnum P.I. before switching over to the big screen. He still does good TV work starring in the popular Jesse Stone series and Blue Bloods. He’s also supportive of the National Rifle Association (NRA) which makes him a good guy in my eyes.

Movies: The Sacketts, Shadow Riders, Three Men and a Baby, Quigley Down Under, and Crossfire Trail.

Mel Gibson: I know, Mel has fallen out of favor with the Hollywood political correct crowd. He made some big mistakes, but who hasn’t. But he’s also made some of the greatest “manly” movies of all time. Besides he’s a Three Stooges fan. So get your panties out of a bunch and just look at some of his work:

Movies: Mad Max (series), Lethal Weapon (series), Braveheart, Passion of the Christ, The Patriot, The Year of Living Dangerously, The Man Without a Face, We Were Soldiers, Signs, and What Women Want.

Russell Crowe: Russell Crowe is also out of favor with the Hollywood elites. Crowe like Gibson is an Aussie, which may have something to do with his unbreakable spirit which rubs people the wrong way. He’s also in a rock band and owns a rugby team. The Islamist terrorist group al-Qaeda wanted to kidnap him.

Movies: Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, LA Confidential, Master and Commander, Cinderella Man, The Quick and the Dead, 3:10 to Yuma, and a surprisingly good Robin Hood.

Bruce Willis: Bruce is always good for an enjoyable action flick where you don’t have to think too hard. He’s also not afraid or too vain to show off his bald dome. Became popular in a TV series called Moonlighting in the 80s.

Movies: Pulp Fiction, The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Sin City, Die Hard (series), The Story of Us, The Fifth Element, Grindhouse, 16 Blocks, and Tears of the Sun.

Gene Hackman: Perhaps my favorite all time actor (next to Clint). Any movie Hackman is in is a good film. Like all great actors he has longevity—he’s been consistently good for a long period of time. He’s also a fiction writer with four novels under his belt.

Movies: Bonnie & Clyde, The French Connection, The Conversation, Young Frankenstein, Hoosiers, Unforgiven, Uncommon Valor, and Mississippi Burning.

Clint Eastwood: Okay, here’s the bonus. The granddaddy of all “manly” actors—Clint! He’s a masculine icon for generations of men. From Rawhide to spaghetti westerns to a dirty cop, Clint’s perhaps the most productive producer, director, and actor alive today. He works with the same crew every film and has great loyalty on the set. Besides that he was the mayor of Carmel, CA. If I’m bored—I’m looking for a pizza and a Clint Eastwood movie. Go ahead—make my day.

Movies: Sergio Leone’s trilogy of spaghetti westerns (A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly), Dirty Harry films, Kelly’s Heroes, Play Misty for Me, High Plains Drifter, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Pale Rider, Heartbreak Ridge, Unforgiven, The Bridges of Madison County, Million Dollar Baby, and Gran Torino.

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Boundaries Teach Boys Self-Discipline

This past season, several high-profile college head football and basketball coaches have been vilified and lost their jobs due to the perception that they harshly enforced disciplinary methods upon a player or players in their program. I’m not defending these coaches’ methods as I do not know the situation, but here’s what I do know. Many young men today, especially talented athletes, have been raised without a father or any other form of accountability or boundaries in their life. They have gotten whatever they want their entire lives. They do not understand the value of true leadership or the concept of respect. These young men rebel against any kind of discipline and despise authority figures. Even though they may in truth crave discipline, they have steered their own ship for too long. They have learned to do what they want, when they want, and so any kind of restrictions—whether it is healthy for them or not—are very uncomfortable. They instinctively resist accountability and become self-focused and self-absorbed. Without willingly acceding to the mentorship and authority of other men, young males with this attitude will struggle their entire lives, creating problems in the lives of those who love and depend upon them.

Teaching boys’ self-discipline is difficult and requires effort on your part. Like most things worthwhile in life, it is hard. Boys learn best by what is modeled for them, not spoken to them. Teaching them self-discipline requires that you be disciplined. Constantly indulging your son in his every desire isn’t good for him. It doesn’t mean you have to be harsh, but you do have to say no sometimes–even frequently. For some parents today, pushing their sons to teach them self-discipline almost feels like child abuse. But the truth is that the more you can teach them to have a strong sense of self-discipline, the happier and healthier they will be throughout their entire lives.

Boundaries are a must during the teenage years. Boundaries help instill self-discipline. Without boundaries boys do not know what the rules are and what is expected of them. They may rebel, but remember no matter what they say, the very fact that you thoughtfully and consistently enforce rules of behavior makes them feel loved and valued. They might complain to their friends that you are mean and tough, but they will say it with a sense of pride too. I’ve known many at-risk young men who have told me that they wished their parents had loved them enough to make them follow a set of guidelines designed to keep them safe.

Recognize though that boundaries need to be flexible to grow and change as your son does. Just like your son is constantly growing and changing so too his boundaries should be dynamic. To hold a seventeen-year-old young man to the same boundaries he had as a thirteen-year-old boy would certainly cause rebellion at best and psychological damage at worst. As he shows more maturity and responsibility, his boundaries should be loosened to help him continue to grow in his decision-making and critical thinking skills process. Our goal is to help him become a healthy, functioning adult by the time he is out from under our umbrella. By not allowing him to grow, we are doing him a disservice by ensuring his failure in the world.

That said, all children (even teens) need clear-cut rules, structure, and guidelines in order to develop self-discipline. They thrive under firm supervision and guidance—they need strong boundaries and discipline from adults. They don’t need you to be their friend. They have plenty of friends. They need you to teach them the things they will need to be successful in life. And sometimes that requires courage on our part. Teens (especially strong-willed ones) know how to push buttons—they are developing their critical thinking skills so they like to argue. They are masters at manipulation. They wear you down—it’s part of their battle strategy. That’s one reason it is important for a husband and wife to be on the same team. They must work together to ensure that a child is raised with consistency and with the same agenda. The bane of many divorced families is that Mom and Dad have a differing value system in their respective homes. Kids are confused from week to week as to what is expected of them.

Discipline comes in two forms—internal and external. Internal discipline or self-discipline is what we strive to teach our kids by applying external discipline. External discipline is applied in a variety of forms—allowing them to suffer the consequences of their actions, teaching them the pleasures of delayed gratification, understanding the relationship between hard work and success, and through personal accountability. Kids, who are not subjected to healthy discipline while growing up, tend to live unhappy lives and create chaos in the lives of those around them. When we discipline our kids, we are actually preparing them for much more fulfilling lives.

Think of it this way. Self-discipline is a gift you give your son that will benefit him his entire life. It will benefit your grandchildren and your great-grandchildren as well. Like all things that are important in life, though, learning self-discipline is difficult and requires hard work. One of the most effective ways to teach boys self-discipline is by holding them accountable for their actions and choices. The sooner they learn that every decision they make (or don’t make) has consequences associated with it, the sooner they start making disciplined and healthy choices. This will be extremely important when he becomes a man and his choices have magnified consequences to both him and his family. Want to see this in action? The next time your son wants an item from the store, tell him, “Sure, you can have it if you buy it with your own money.” You’ll quickly see what he places value on when he has to be responsible for purchasing it himself.

Excerpted from Rick’s book, That’s My Teenage Son” by Revell Publishing. To find out more visit www.betterdads.net.

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Expectations Make the Man

Oftentimes the expectations we have for our children have a tendency to come to fruition. With that in mind it is important we have high expectations for our boys. We should strive to have them aspire to greatness. Why not exhort them to aspire to greatness? The rule of thumb in the business world is that employees are only capable at best of living up to about 75% of the expectations that an employer has for them. Why should we strive to produce mediocre men by having low expectations of our boys?

Unfortunately, our culture not only has low expectations for males, it seems to revel in trying to destroy masculinity. We expect boys to act more like girls. In Unleashing Courageous Faith, Paul Coughlin comments on what our culture does to boys, “Boys are being gunned down by manliness gone bad and by those who do not accept or appreciate it. Our culture tells young boys that traditional masculinity is bad, that men are stupid and deserve to be the object of disdain, contempt, and ridicule. Then we expect them to grow up and exemplify honor, integrity, and valor.” Just watch nearly any television sitcom or commercial if you doubt that statement.

True manhood accepts responsibility for others’ lives by protecting, providing, nurturing, and leading those under its sphere of influence. But how do we teach boys the lessons they need in order to accept that responsibility and develop the mindset necessary to fulfill those roles.

In many cultures throughout history manhood was something that was earned through overcoming difficult challenges or dangerous initiations. It involved initiations, rituals, and ceremonies generally supervised by older males. Frequently the instructions passed along during these rites of passage contained life lessons that taught boys what it meant to fulfill the roles and responsibilities of manhood.

Teaching young men to have empathy and compassion for others is very important in the development of a healthy man. It has been my experience from raising two teenagers and working with many others that they are often idealistic about the world and troubled by the injustices that abound within it. Young men should be indignant and disturbed by things like poverty, victimization, and exploitation of those who cannot defend themselves. That righteous outrage means he has heart. It is much better than the passive, apathetic, and self-focused attitude many young (and older) men posses today. Instead our culture tells them that self-gratification and self-indulgence are the only goals worthy to strive for.

So how do boys learn to have passion, courage, and empathy? By watching the examples of their fathers and other older males in their lives.

Question: What expectations do you have for your son that will teach him to be a man of integrity?

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Passing the Mantle of Manhood

Young men growing up without mentors are just boys seeking their identity. Since our culture does not have intentional rites of passage to teach and help guide a young man from boyhood into manhood, they are often left to rely upon themselves to try and figure out how to become a man. Some boys consider getting drunk for the first time the sign of crossing the threshold into manhood. Others think losing their virginity is surely a sign of being a man. At its extreme gangs often require initiation ceremonies of new members that include assault and battery, theft, rape, or even murder.

In his book, Wild at Heart, John Eldredge calls boys who have never been initiated and mentored into manhood “partial” men. They are boys walking around in men’s bodies, sometimes even fulfilling their roles with jobs and families. For these men the passing on of masculinity was never completed (if started at all). These boys were never taken through the process of masculine initiation. It’s why many men today are what Eldredge calls Unfinished Men.

In his classic book, Raising a Modern-Day Knight, Robert Lewis uses the model of initiating boys into manhood through the medieval custom of knighthood. In those times boys were trained and equipped with a masculine vision, a code of conduct, and an objective to live life. First as a page, then a squire, and finally a knight they passed through stages that trained them and helped instill a chivalric code of honor. At each of these stages they were given ceremonies that celebrated their achievement and marked their progress toward manhood. By the time they were ready to become knights they had a clear definition of a man’s duties and responsibilities and a code of conduct to live his life by. In other words they knew what a man was because they had been trained and tutored by honorable men for many years.

Ceremonies or rites of passage are important for all children but especially for boys. Our children develop their faith not only from us but from others as well. Remember, someone is going to influence your children—it had better be you or at least those who have the same value system as you do.

While my son was growing up I held several personal ceremonies with my son at various stages such as at age 12 when I took him to dinner, challenged him to purity, and talked about the challenges he was undertaking as he entered adolescence.

But when my son graduated from high school I was determined to have a ceremony he would remember to launch him into the world. Several months beforehand, I contacted six godly men and asked them to pray about what God would have them share with a young man just starting out life. Shortly after his graduation I rented a room in the back of a restaurant and hosted a dinner with my son and the six men. Each man took turns in front of the others telling my son the mistakes they had made, their regrets, and the things they wish they could do over. They shared from their heart the joys and sorrows of being a man, a father, and a husband. The men were powerfully vulnerable as they shared from the depths of their souls. I then got up and spoke to my son of the dreams I had for his life and shared advice about life. I gave him my blessing as a father to a son and launched him into the world.

I videotaped the dinner for my son so he can watch it over and over. At the time, the event may have impacted the other men more than my son, but as he gets older this advice will be invaluable. I intend to have a similar ceremony before he gets married—gather a group of men who have been successfully married a long time to pass along their special insights on what it takes to be a husband and love a woman.

Our boys are blessed for a lifetime when we design and prepare ceremonies to mark their journey into manhood. These ceremonies tell them they are progressing along a road with the destination of manhood. They are mileposts that boys can track their progress and understand what is expected of them on the next portion of their journey. It eliminates confusion and the need to “prove” he’s a man—to himself and to others.

This post is part of the Rite of Passage Blog Tour. You can read more entries by other authors at http://riteofpassageblogtour.weebly.com/. Additionally, for more ideas on how to hold a ceremony for your son, check out Jim McBride’s new book, Rite of Passage: a Father’s Blessing, by Moody Publishers, on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Rite-Passage-Blessing-Jim-McBride/dp/0802458807/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1316022959&sr=8-1.

Gleaned from Rick’s book, That’s My Teenage Son, by Revell Publishing, 2011. To find out more about Rick’s books or his speaking schedule please go to www.betterdads.net.

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The Psychology of Male Anger

One emotion that most males are familiar with is anger. Anger produces a physiological arousal in males. It creates a state of readiness and heightened awareness. It creates energy that can be directed outward in the form of protection or even as a weapon. Anger causes a fight or flight response designed to protect us. Anger is frequently a powerful tool for boys and men to use to cover our inadequacies. Oftentimes anger in males is a secondary emotion used to cover underlying emotions such as fear, hurt, or frustration. You’ll notice that nearly all males will react with anger when they become overly frustrated or are hurt emotionally.

The surge of adrenaline and associated arousal can be addicting to some males. Young males need to be taught how to deal with and control their anger. In order to do that, they must learn to own their anger and identify the source of that anger. Then they can learn to determine how to choose to respond to their anger.

Males are not very adept at understanding their emotions nor very comfortable dealing with them. Emotions are powerful and often uncontrollable. That’s why many males keep such a tight lid on their emotions–once released they are difficult to predict or control and often result in a situation ending in vulnerability. The one emotion however that they are relatively comfortable with is that of anger. Anger for many men is an old friend; one they call upon in a variety of circumstances. Like all powerful emotions it can be used destructively or for good. For instance anger can be terribly destructive in relationships. After all anger is only one letter away from being danger. All we need do is look at the devastation caused to women and children through a man’s uncontrolled wrath and anger. Anger can lead to emotional, psychological, and even physical abuse.

On the other hand anger can be channeled into productive pathways. Anger can be used to motivate a man to achieve more than he might otherwise be able to accomplish. It can be used as a mechanism to encourage perseverance under duress or in grueling circumstances. Many a boy accomplished some difficult task all because he got angry when someone told him he couldn’t succeed. When teased, many boys use that anger to motivate themselves to “prove” their offenders wrong. One method in coaching is to get young men angry in order to motivate them to perform beyond their self-imposed limitations. In fact, many men propel themselves with anger and grit to succeed in life because a father-figure constantly told them they wouldn’t amount to anything. Warriors often used anger towards their enemies as motivation to succeed in battle or even a school yard fight.

Regardless of how it is used anger is the emotion most familiar to males. Anger is often a secondary emotion used by males to cover or mask other emotions. For instance, certain emotions such as fear, anxiety, vulnerability, or distress often produce a feeling of humiliation in males. Humiliation is considered a weakness by males. Remember, for most males to show weakness is to be vulnerable and open to criticism. To be vulnerable is an invitation to be attacked. But anger is a defense against attack and may even be a weapon to attack others. Very angry men and boys are seldom messed with, even by bullies.

Rather than feel humiliated by these “unmanly” emotions, many males instinctively and automatically use anger to cover those feelings. Even pain (physical or psychological) can be covered by anger. Notice how most males react when they hit their thumb with a hammer. They’d rather get mad than cry. Most men also get angry rather than depressed or hysterical when faced with an emotional crisis in a relationship. Again, this is a protective mechanism for their fragile egos; egos that are covering secretly ingrained feelings of inadequacy and incompetence.

Sometimes anger is even used consciously. I was raised in an alcoholic and abusive home. I can distinctly remember at about the age of 12 when I first discovered that if I just got angry I didn’t have to feel that humiliating emotion of being afraid. In typical naive boyhood fashion I told myself, “This is great. I’ll never be scared again for the rest of my life!” However, this was foolish as I spent a significant portion of my adult life being angry. Angry because I was really afraid because I had never had a positive male role model show me how a man lives his life and faces his problems in a healthy manner.

Young men who are not taught how a man acts, what his roles in life are and how to fulfill them adequately and competently are very often angry. They are angry at life and at the world. They are afraid. They take this anger out on others, hoping to hurt them before they themselves are hurt; even if that hurt is just humiliation from their ineptness.

Excerpted from, Rick Johnson, That’s My Teenage Son: How Moms Can Influence Boys to Become Good Men, by Revell, 2011

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Teaching Boys Discipline

This past season, several high profile college head football and basketball coaches have been vilified and lost their jobs due to the perception that they harshly enforced disciplinary methods upon a player or players in their program. I’m not defending these coaches’ methods as I do not know the situation, but here’s what I do know. Many young men today, especially talented athletes, have been raised without a father or any other accountability or boundaries in their life. They have gotten whatever they want their entire lives. They do not understand the value of true leadership or the concept of respect. These young men rebel against any kind of discipline and despise authority figures. Even though they may in truth crave discipline, they have steered their own ship for too long. They have learned to do what they want when they want, and so any kind of restrictions—whether it is healthy for them or not—are very uncomfortable. They instinctively resist accountability and become self-focused and self-absorbed. Without willingly acceding to the mentorship and authority of other men, young males with this attitude will struggle their entire lives, creating problems in the lives of those who love and depend upon them.

Teaching boys’ self-discipline is difficult and requires effort on your part. Like most things worthwhile in life it is hard. Boys learn best by what is modeled for them not spoken to them. Teaching them self-discipline requires that you be disciplined. For some moms with their nurturing nature, this can present difficulties. Constantly indulging your son in his every desire isn’t good for him. It doesn’t mean you have to be harsh or mean, but you do have to say “no” sometimes, even frequently. For moms who feel guilty about the circumstances in which they are raising their sons, this can be difficult. For some parents today pushing their sons to teach them self-discipline almost feels like child abuse. But the truth is that the more you can teach them to have a strong sense of self-discipline the happier and healthier they will be throughout their entire lives.

What is the best way you’ve found to teach your son self-discipline?

Excerpted from, That’s My Teenage Son: How Moms Can Influence Boys to Become Good Men, Revell Publishing, 2011.

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Get More Sex from Your Marriage!

I was recently asked to speak at a large men’s conference. Besides speaking from the main stage I was scheduled to give two breakout sessions as well. One of the breakout sessions was on the topic of my newest book, Becoming Your Spouse’s Better Half. Upon arriving at the venue I looked at the participant guide and discovered that the event producers had promoted this workshop as a “how to get more sex in your marriage” event. Needless to say about 580 out of the 600 men in attendance showed up at the workshop. The twenty who didn’t come were the teenage boys who were forced (somewhat reluctantly) to attend the workshop on sexual purity.

However, rather than discuss sex during the workshop, I talked mostly about a woman’s true needs and how best to fulfill them. For instance I talked about how romance is a key factor in having an enjoyable sex life for women–that women are physically stimulated through romance because it meets their key needs of feeling cherished and loved. To be romanced is to feel special and of value. To be romanced is to be pursued. It makes a woman feel loved and attractive. When a woman’s need for non-sexual affection is met she is programmed to respond with physical affection. Nearly all women derive at least some self-esteem or self-value from being desired and wanted by a man.

I also explained how many women are unable to separate sex from the context of their daily lives and relationships. That might sound strange to us men, but know that if you have been arguing with your wife or if the kids are sick, she is not likely to be in the mood for sex. And while men use sex to heal the problems of life, women are just the opposite. In fact many women report that if the house is messy or the dishes dirty they are unable to relax and concentrate on having sexual relations.
I also told the men the importance of speaking words that their wives need to hear such as “I love you” and “You’re beautiful.” When a woman feels beautiful she is more likely to be sexually responsive. A wife needs to hear several things daily. She needs confirmation that her man loves her, and she needs to know he finds her beautiful. She needs to hear those things frequently to allay her fears and insecurities. Most women are very insecure about their appearance. She magnifies in her mind any perceived imperfections or flaws in her physical appearance. I use the word perceived because they are usually just that—figments of her imagination. The great mystery is that even the world’s most beautiful women think they are ugly or have features they are insecure about. These negative whispers in her ear are strategies by the evil one to strike her where she is most vulnerable and where it hurts most.

As we discussed the need to actually “talk” to their wives you could see an almost pained expression come over the faces of the men. I reassured them by talking about the importance of just listening to a woman and not trying to solve her problems.

Frankly, the men were pretty stoic during the entire presentation. I had not given this workshop before so I did not know what to expect. But surprisingly to me were how many men came up to me afterwards, many with tears in their eyes, and expressed genuine thanks at the epiphanies they had received regarding their wives’ needs. I have since received half-dozen emails from men at the conference commenting on, according to their wives, how much the information I shared has already improved their marriages.

I believe the average guy is sincerely confused about his wife’s needs and how to fulfill them. Women are complex creatures to most men. Every man I know wants to make his wife happy, and most guys would be willing to do whatever it takes—provided they knew what to do! Rather than advice from a Lothario’s perspective (which is what most books in our culture promote), we need to teach men (young and old) down to earth, practical, common sense advice on how to fulfill their wives’ deepest needs, thus creating harmony, joy, and contentment in the lives of their spouses. And if they happen to get a more fulfilling sex life because of it—so be it!