In researching the New Warriors Adventure Weekend, I came across this recent article depicting a dark side to the experience. New Warriors is recommended by some reparative therapists (e.g., Richard Cohen, NARTH) as a means of getting in touch with lost masculinity.
It is a chilling expose’ of secret activities conducted by a secret organization. While the New Warriors does not discourage homosexual identification, I have heard it recommended by reparative therapists as a means of helping men reduce same-sex attraction.
Here are some of the activities described:
• Blindfolded walking tours in the nude;
• People blowing sage smoke in his face while 50 or so naked men danced around candles;
• Men sitting naked in a circle discussing their sexual histories while passing a wooden dildo called “The Cock”;
• Naked men beating cooked chickens with a hammer.
Some participants swear by it. Said spokesperson for New Warriors, Les Sinclair:
“This is the best thing on the planet,” he [Mr. Sinclair] says from his home in Las Vegas. “The initiation is a real wake-up to life. We teach men to be accountable for the choices they make or the actions they don’t take. We look at the emotional wounds that have taken a man’s power away…He may have low self-esteem, he may feel like he doesn’t measure up to other men, he’s afraid of men or he’s afraid of women, or he’s afraid of life in general. We look at what was that key emotional wound that took his power away and set up some form of psychodrama for him to overcome. It is a very powerful process.”
This experience is for all men, gay and straight, and I notice that many who feel diminished masculinity seek this. I am surprised that a reparative therapist would recommend this since those seeking to be ex-gay will find out very soon that straight men have self-doubt about masculinity too. In addition, gay men who attend find their inner “tough guy” and stay gay. How does that work?
Healing masculinity is a bit pricey with the weekend costing $650, plus more cash for weekly group sessions. And some believe the participants are really getting a form of therapy.
“What it boils down to,” says Rick Ross, head of the Rick A. Ross Institute of New Jersey, which studies cults, groups and movements, “is that they are doing group therapy, although they won’t admit to that, and they are not qualified to do group therapy. They are not licensed and they are not accountable.”
Norris Lang, who chairs the anthropology department at the University of Houston and is a former therapist, agrees. He took part in an initiation retreat in 1997 and then attended several Integration Group meetings before deciding to leave the organization.
“Some of the exercises that they had us engage in,” he says, “were fairly traumatic and normally, as a psychotherapist, I would have only engaged in some of those activities…in the security of a hospital or psychiatric facility. If you get somebody to get in touch with their feelings from, say, 30 years ago, a time when they were abused as children, that can be fairly dangerous territory for an unprofessional. It’s kind of group therapy without any professionals involved.”
From what I have seen thus far, I would agree that more oversight would be beneficial. It certainly looks like attempts at therapy to me. For one Houston man, it was bad therapy. Michael Scinto killed himself after attended a New Warriors session and his family is suing the Houston area branch.
The rituals described are disturbing. I encourage readers to examine the entire article but here is one example:
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.”
and then this one:
“They were all in the sweat lodge on Sunday,” she says, “which he actually enjoyed. It was the first moment he had to relax in days after going through such a high-drama weekend where they pound you to reveal your deep, dark stuff. So, everyone was sitting Indian-style in a big circle in the lodge when the man leading the group said, ‘If you wish, you may reach over and grab your brother’s dick. If your brother doesn’t want your hand there, he can remove it.’ Well, my husband told me he just froze. And from that point on, he just wanted out.”
Mr. Sinclair denies that such an activity would ever take place at a training adventure.
The local Catholic diocese was forced to comment since some of their priests were in the weekend and the diocese has condemned the practices. What is written here clearly has potential for misapplication and as such appears to be questionable — especially as recommendations to reduce same-sex attraction. Here is their statement from the article:
Bishop Joe Vasquez then issued a statement condemning the organization. In an e-mail, he wrote that the archdiocese became aware in late 2005 that priests were members of The ManKind Project. The then-archbishop, Joseph A. Fiorenza, “was concerned that elements of The ManKind Project and its New Warrior Training weekends seemed to reflect a New Age philosophy and were not in harmony with traditional Roman Catholic belief and practices,” Vasquez wrote. “Archbishop Fiorenza issued a letter in January 2006 asking priests to refrain from being actively involved in the group or promoting” it.
UPDATE – Here is a bit more information on the relationship between reparative therapy and New Warriors. As David Blakeslee noted in his comments on this post, Joseph Nicolosi appears to have been a supporter of New Warriors in the past. And New Warriors has supported him, according to this blog post.