Society encourages a strange dynamic: it says “boys will be boys,” “that’s just locker room talk” and “sow your oats,” but when men are unfaithful, abusive, or destructive, the same society that encouraged them to indulge their bad behavior now wonders, “how could you have done something like that?”
In The Truth About Men, DeVon Franklin, the bestselling author and Hollywood producer whom Oprah Winfrey has called “a new kind of spiritual leader for our time,” speaks out about why men act badly and what we can do to help bring change, both on a personal and a societal level. He argues that the same discipline that drives men to excel in their professional lives needs to be applied to their private lives. He uses the analogy of a dog that needs to be trained as a means to explore why bad behavior persists and what can lead men to act against their vows, their integrity, and even their character. He argues that learning to tame the beast is an essential remedy for men who desire to be good men, and lays out a plan for how men can deal with the beast within them: by acknowledging it, holding it accountable with the support of other men, learning self-control, and submitting to God. He also provides practical solutions for how both men and women can encourage better behavior and how we, as a society, can expect better.
This groundbreaking book is an informative, inspiring, and compelling look at a problem we are all wrestling with and offers a way forward for men and women alike.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The Truth About Men
Why must I feel that? Why must I chase the cat?
Nothing but the dog in me!
—GEORGE CLINTON, “ATOMIC DOG”
I almost didn’t write this book. While I was on the promotional tour for my previous book, The Hollywood Commandments, I decided I was going to take a break from writing for a while. I love writing, but I thought it was time to give it a breather and focus on other aspects of my career.
But then one conversation changed everything. Maria Shriver was interviewing me for her Facebook show Architects of Change as part of my tour. After the cameras stopped rolling, I was talking with her and her staff. This was in the fall of 2017, right around the time the news of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual assault scandal broke. Inevitably, we started talking about this and I said to her, off the cuff, “I’ve always wanted to write a book called Are Men Really Dogs?”
I went on to tell her why I believe men behave badly—why so many men seem to chase after money and power and sex, no matter the cost—and started laying out solutions for how men can take responsibility for and correct the problem. I also started talking about what women need to know about what’s really going on inside a man. Maria stopped me and said, “You must write this book right now!”
I told her no. I had just released a book and I was going to take a break. She persisted, and I said, “Okay, I’ll think about it.” That was just my way of placating her, because I had no intention of taking on a topic as big and as potentially divisive as this one.
But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. And the more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that I wanted nothing to do with this idea. It’s dangerous to write a book about what men need to do better. First of all, most men don’t like looking in the mirror (I know I don’t), and this would be asking them to do just that. But not only that: taking on a topic like this would require me to examine my own manhood and discuss it honestly and transparently. I spend a lot of time talking to other people about having faith and facing their fears. Writing a book like this would challenge me to do the exact same thing; it’s not enough to tell others what to do if I don’t do it myself. I have to “walk it like I talk it,” and I couldn’t imagine too many things that would be more frightening. However, I felt compelled that this is what I must do, so I decided to face my fears and speak my truth.
In his song “Against All Odds,” the late Tupac Shakur, arguably one of the greatest rappers in history, spoke a famous line: “This be the realest sh*t I ever wrote.” That line resonates with me because it expresses exactly how I feel about this book. Of all the books I’ve written, this is the most timely, relevant, urgent, and personal.
I’m a Hollywood producer and a preacher, and people often ask me why men act the way they do. Those questions didn’t start with the tsunami of sexual harassment allegations we started hearing about in the news in late 2017; however, they have intensified since the news about Harvey Weinstein sparked and encouraged legions of women to come forward about the way men have mistreated and/or abused them. I realized that in order to really uncover the issue and the root of men’s behavior, I needed to start by looking at my own life and family history.
I was raised in Oakland, California, by my mother, my grandmother, and my grandmother’s seven sisters—my great-aunts. Because I was raised predominantly by women and spent so much time with them, I saw firsthand the pain that the many men in their lives caused them, primarily due to infidelity. As a young kid I was so perplexed by this that I asked them, “Can a man be faithful?” They responded unanimously, saying, “No. Ninety-nine percent of all men cheat.”
What?! No way, I thought. I was devastated. It sounded like they were citing a fundamental law of the universe. Growing up, I heard (and still hear even now) the following refrain:
All men cheat.
Men can’t be faithful.
Men can’t keep it in their pants.
Men love power.
Men are greedy.
Men are dogs.
I became fascinated by the question “Are men really dogs?”
It was a personal question for me, because my father, Donald Ray Franklin, wasn’t around much when my brothers and I were growing up. He struggled with alcoholism our entire lives, and when he was just thirty-six (I was nine at the time) he died of a heart attack. Years after his passing, when I was a teenager, I was at one of my cousin’s houses and found a photo of my dad sitting on a bed next to a female family member. My mother was sitting on the same bed, but on the opposite side. Strangely, my dad and this family member were smiling, while my mother looked distraught. I asked someone else in the family, “Do you know why my mother looks so upset in this photo?”
This person told me a truth that rocked me to my core, one I’ve never expressed publicly until now: My dad had cheated on my mom with another woman in my family.
How could this have happened? My own father cheated on my mother with another woman—in my family?! I drew a quick conclusion: Maybe men really are dogs.
And if my father was one, I realized, that must make me one too.
This revelation threw me into disbelief. I decided I didn’t want to become part of the ninety-nine percent. I didn’t want to become a dog or act like one.
This revelation also sparked my quiet obsession with discovering the answer to two questions: What is going on inside men? and Is something wrong with us?
As I thought about these questions, I found the easiest response was to take the self-righteous path and assume I would never be like that. Yet as I grew into adulthood, I noticed that deep inside me was a growing and seemingly insatiable appetite for sex, women, money, power, and success. Appalled, I found myself consistently suppressing these desires—trying to live as if they didn’t exist. But again and again, I found the power of these urges to be overwhelming at times.
Recently, society got a reminder of that power in the avalanche of sexual assault allegations leveled against some of the most prominent, powerful men in the world. As the stories started erupting out of Hollywood (from Harvey Weinstein to Kevin Spacey), politics (from John Conyers to Al Franken), sports (from Larry Nassar to Jerry Richardson), and other dominant industries, I began to ask myself—as did many others—“How could so many well-known, highly accomplished men get to a place where they allowed their urges to control them, consume them, and eventually destroy their lives?” How could countless men throughout history until this very day have such a difficult time remaining faithful? It seemed beyond explanation.
These questions are not meant to be shots fired, point fingers, or be expressions of self-righteous indignation. They are part of an honest, anguished search for answers about what really haunts men no matter our age, race, or position in society. I ask questions like this about my own life:
• How could my dad cheat on my mom with another woman?
• How could I have impure thoughts and urges that don’t seem to go away with prayer or fasting?
• Why do I sometimes think about other women, even though I love my wife?
It’s important that I make something clear: There’s a difference between being a harasser and having difficulty controlling urges that could lead to infidelity. I’m not trying to put these things in the same category or paint them with the same broad brush, because the physical assault and violation of women is indefensible. Most men have issues managing their urges, but most of those same men would never think of sexually or physically assaulting a woman.
I don’t smoke weed and I’m a not proponent of it; however, I’m told there are many different materials that can be derived from the Cannabis sativa plant. Hemp stalk is a strong natural fiber, with no hallucinogenic properties, that can be used to make clothing and other materials, while marijuana comes from the flowers of the plant. Hemp seeds are high in protein, amino acids, and essential fatty acids and vitamins, and are sometimes considered a superfood. They all have different purposes and properties, but hemp stalk, hemp seeds, and marijuana all come from the same plant.
The same goes for men’s issues—they can take many forms, yet I believe they all stem from the same root.
The Me Too Movement actually predates the hashtag that gained popularity in late 2017. It was started in 2006 by Tarana Burke, who founded the movement “to help survivors of sexual violence, particularly young women of color from low wealth communities, find pathways to healing. . . . the me too. movement was ultimately created to ensure survivors know they’re not alone in their journey.” Then it was adopted widely in the wake of the sexual harassment scandals, and it became a way for women who have been victims of sexual harassment and assault to speak out about their abuse—many for the first time. In December 2017, the #MeToo “Silence Breakers” were named Time’s Person of the Year. According to #MeToo, 17,700,000 women have reported a sexual assault since 1998—and that’s just those who have reported it.
Time’s Up is a crusade against sexual harassment that started in January 2018 by a group of three hundred women in Hollywood. It has a similar vision for women’s empowerment as #MeToo, but it functions as a next step in the movement with solution-based, action-oriented advocacy aimed at creating significant change, safety, and equity in the workplace.
In the wake of the powerful and timely #MeToo and #TimesUp movements that started because of the wave of sexual assault allegations, I began to look for the root cause of sexual harassment and assault. Could the same fidelity and greed issues most men struggle with come from the same root?
As I’ve delved deeper into my own life and also analyzed what’s really going on with other men, I’ve realized there is an issue that no one’s talking about: Men have a lust problem.
This is the secret that men carry.
While much of my focus throughout this book will be on sexual desire, lust is more than just a hunger for sex. Here is my definition:
Lust is an overwhelming selfish impulse for sexual, financial, professional, or personal fulfillment by any means necessary, even if those means are personally, professionally, or spiritually detrimental.
I call this lust the Dog.
Every man has lust, aka the Dog, within him, and when we allow that lust to go untrained, unmanaged, and unmastered, it can cause men to behave just like an untrained dog. When fed, this Dog can become powerful enough to destroy every good thing men have planned for their lives.
Our society is in a state of emergency because of unmanaged lust running rampant in men. As a result, men are causing untold damage to women, themselves, their families, and our communities.
The most important benefit of training your dog is safety: your safety, the safety of others, and his own safety . . . a trained dog is a free dog.
—JACK & WENDY VOLHARD, DOG TRAINING FOR DUMMIES
Have you ever owned a dog that wasn’t trained? What happened when you left it alone all day? Do you remember coming home to find torn-up couch cushions, shredded shoes, and everything in chaos? Now imagine that house is your life. If men don’t train the Dog within, what kind of destruction will continue to happen to their relationships, careers, and reputations?
The Dog hungers for vice, women, money, power, and possessions. It covets success. It looks for any kind of instant gratification. The Dog hates monogamy, restraint, and patience. But what makes the Dog really dangerous is that it is never satisfied. You can feed it vice until you think it’s full, but its appetite only grows. The Dog wants what it wants when it wants it.
None of this is meant to excuse infidelity or bad behavior. Recognizing that the Dog exists is not the same as approving of it. Instead, it’s recognition of a stark reality:
If the man doesn’t master the Dog, the Dog will master the man.
When men cheat on their girlfriends or wives, the Dog is in control. When men lie, cheat, or steal to get ahead in life, the Dog is in control. Men all around the world, from all eras and all stations in life, from priests and ministers to poets and presidents, have struggled with the Dog. Even in the Scriptures, we find accounts of men, from King David to Samson to the apostle Paul, who confessed to having trouble dealing with the Dog within them. From Julius Caesar to Caligula, history is filled with stories of men who had trouble with the Dog. And while it isn’t exactly clear when society started referring to men as “dogs,” in many traditions (including Islam and Rabbinic Judaism) dogs have historically been associated with violence, uncleanliness, and sexual promiscuity. In an article on when Muslims began to have a negative perception of dogs for Quartz India, Alan Mikhail writes, “This idea taps into a long tradition that considers even the mere sight of a dog during prayer to have the power to nullify a pious Muslim’s supplications.”
Every man has lust in him. Every man has the Dog in him. That’s the bad news.
The good news? Every man also has love in him.
I call this love the Master. Every dog has a master. Every man has a Dog and every man has a Master within. The cure for the problem of the Dog is Mastery.
The Master represents the love in a man—the love of self, love of family, love of the woman in his life, the love of community. There’s enough love in a man to counteract the lust in a man. I believe every man truly wants to love and be loved. However, as men we aren’t taught how to love. Most men stumble in this area of learning what it means to love, especially self-love. This is why Mastery must be practiced, because the more men practice love and being loving, the stronger the Master will become. When the Master is in control, the Dog must obey. Mastering love is the key to everything, because the Dog cannot be eliminated—it can only be mastered. Mastery, as I define it, is the practice of learning to love. Without Mastery, the Dog leads men to act against marriage vows and damage their integrity, and it even changes the fiber of a man’s character. In order for men to be truly successful, there must be recognition that the Dog has the power to destroy and a choice must be made to discipline it. Love is indeed the most powerful force in the universe and that’s why the love—aka the Master—in men must be empowered, developed, and unleashed.
The Master knows how to honor himself and the women in his life. He’s respectful and consistent. He’s a warrior for peace and well-being. He craves responsibility and accepts accountability. He’s a builder who creates a happy home and a strong family because they are the most important things in his life. He’s at his best, fully expressing his potential. He’s thoughtful and compassionate. He’s sexy because he can handle commitment. He’s a man, not a boy in a man’s body. Most of all, a Master bows to The Master. He understands that the true power to tame the Dog comes from above.
Mastering the Dog is dangerous work. Why? Because it requires a combination of transparency and discipline that men rarely employ. How do men master the Dog? By committing to training it.
Training is everything, and it’s the key to success. Noted dog trainers Jack and Wendy Volhard say this about training: “After all, a well-trained dog is a happy dog, and happy dogs have happy owners. However, you can’t expect a dog to do what you want him to do (or don’t want to do) unless you show him what your expectations are. And your dog won’t learn properly or be willing to heed your commands unless you use effective training methods.”
It’s time for us as men to do our work, because we are the problem. For too long we have placed the responsibility of our poor behavior at the feet of women. It’s time for men to “man up” and allow the buck to stop with us.
However, we generally don’t like to do our work. We’re stubborn and resistant to looking in the mirror and acknowledging that we have to change.
A 2015 clip of DJ Khaled’s appearance on Power 105’s The Breakfast Club went viral because of his views on gender roles. He said, “You gotta understand, I’m the don. I’m the king . . . It’s different rules for men. We the king so there’s some things y’all might not wanna do, [but] it gotta get done. I just can’t do what you want me to do. I just can’t.”
I’m a fan of DJ Khaled’s work, and it’s unclear whether his thinking has changed since this interview. However, the attitude he displays here isn’t unique. The belief that there are different rules for men and women is a stubborn ideology, and when men (and women) buy into this thinking, change becomes elusive and nearly impossible. There aren’t different rules for men and women. And we shouldn’t buy into an idea that somehow women are subordinate because these fictitious rules imply that men are superior. If we believe in a double standard, in a set of rules that implies the superiority of men just because they are male, this double standard belief can continue to perpetuate the various kinds of abuse (psychological, physical, spiritual, and emotional) that women have experienced and continue to experience at the hands of men.
Many men have bought into a false idea of what it means to be a man. This false idea leads to feelings of entitlement, and that contributes to chauvinistic behavior that is detrimental to men, and especially to women. I wrote this book to help men and women understand how this all goes back to the Dog, and to help men learn how to master it.
It may seem strange that I also wrote this book for women, but I did because they are on the receiving end of much of the damage the Dog does, and I want them to understand how to deal with the Dog too. Ladies, we are all in this together, and I wish I could tell you that every man in your life is going to do the work and is automatically going to get it together, but that’s just not true. I pray this book will motivate and inspire them to become better, but while that process is under way, I don’t want you to be in the dark. I want to tell you the truth as I see it as a way to help you deal with the Dog too.
I wrote the book The Wait with my wife, Meagan. It is a countercultural book about relationships that encourages readers to value delayed gratification over instant gratification, primarily by waiting for sex until marriage. In that book, we talk about the incidents in our personal lives that led us to make a vow of celibacy even before we started dating each other and about the benefits we experienced in our life as we waited. We had no idea the book would strike such a strong chord with men and women all around the world. I decided to wait while I was still single, many years before I ever met Meagan, because I didn’t want to be preaching one thing and doing another. Navigating life in Hollywood as a single, celibate, high-powered executive and preacher definitely came with its set of challenges; however, it ultimately gave me experience and credibility with how to master the Dog. The practice of consistently sacrificing my personal desire for sex, managing my own lust for power, and committing to the process of personal success as a single man has helped me navigate the challenges of the Dog as a married man. This experience has given me the credibility to equip men and women with tools to become more successful in these areas. That journey laid the foundation for me to write this book.
Since The Wait was published, women from all over the world have contacted me, telling me they are tired of the pain men cause when they say one thing and do another. They have also told me they are sick of men telling them “what they need to know about men” without having those same men be challenged to take responsibility for their actions. More than once, I’ve been asked, “DeVon, when are men going to step up?”
Even though Maria Shriver’s prompting was compelling, I finally decided to write this book because I was tired of seeing the hurt in women’s eyes when they talk about the pain, anger, humiliation, and devastation men have caused them because so many men haven’t or won’t commit to the process of controlling their lust. I realized it was time to write this book when I saw that there are men out there who are legitimately struggling with how to become better men, yet have almost no guidance on how to do so.
I don’t write this from a perspective of some self-righteous master. I’m no exception to any of the difficult truths I tackle in this book. Even though I’m a faithfully and happily married man for six years now, I have a Dog within me, too. If I try to act like my standing as a man of faith and a man in Hollywood makes me immune to my own lust, I am setting myself up for destruction, and I increase the chances that I will one day see the hurt in my wife’s eyes. Every single day I have to work at accepting, training, and mastering the Dog so that it doesn’t get the best of me. It’s some of the hardest yet most rewarding work I’ve ever done. All men are vulnerable to the Dog. If I act like I’m not, pride will make me its victim.
It’s not just me, either. All over the world, good, well-intentioned men have the potential to be ruined by the Dog. Why? Because the Dog that remains unacknowledged, undisciplined, and untrained is dangerous.
Training the Dog is not easy, but it can be done. Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx tells a story about how the Dog within him was out of control before the Oscars in 2005 when he was up for Best Actor for playing Ray Charles in Ray. In an interview with Howard Stern on May 23, 2017, he said, “I’m having such a good time, and I’m not knowing I’m f**king up, I mean I’m drinking, I’m doing every f**king thing you could possibly imagine or not and then I get a call.”
The call was from none other than Oprah Winfrey, and she was not pleased. In the interview with Stern, Foxx said that Oprah told him, “You’re blowing it, Jamie Foxx. All of this gallivanting and all this kind of sh*t, that’s not what you want to do. I want to take you somewhere. Make you understand the significance of what you’re doing.”
He said that Oprah took him to a gathering at Quincy Jones’s home in the Hollywood Hills, where some of the top black actors from the 1960s and ’70s were waiting to do something like an intervention. Among them was the legendary actor Sidney Poitier, who said to Jamie, “I want to give you one thing. I want to give you responsibility. When I saw your performance, it made me grow two inches.”
The message they were sending was clear: You have an opportunity, but also a responsibility. Don’t screw it up. Foxx says he was so moved, and so ashamed, that he wept.
He told Stern, “To this day, it’s the most significant time in my life.”
Oprah and those great men did something that is the key to getting the Dog under control: they appealed to the Master, and they succeeded in helping Foxx tame the Dog.
The Truth About Men is a user’s manual for both men and women, whether single or married, to help them become equipped with the necessary knowledge, insights, and tools to transform their lives.
Men, this book will give you the road map for how to unleash the Master within. It will help you get control of the Dog, become the man you were created to be, and give you the help you need to claim victory in every area of your life.
Women, this book will give you insight into men and give you a look behind the veil of manhood. With knowledge there is tremendous power, and this book will give you real-time understanding on navigating your personal and professional relationships with men more effectively. But I will go beyond that, and give you specific information on not only what you’re up against, but also on how to prevail.
This book is to be used as a conversation and communication starter. Men and women spend too much time talking at one another and not enough time talking with one another.
Where there is no communication, there can be no transformation.
My hope is that this book can be used as a powerful tool for personal and collective transformation for both men and women. Yet, this all starts with building and repairing effective communication. We have to start by first having honest conversations. Honesty isn’t a sign of weakness but of strength. When we can admit we don’t have it all together, that we’re struggling to figure out how to deal with one another better and that we need help in the process, this is when positive change can take place. Communication is one of the main keys to effecting change.
Communication is also one of the key tools of effective training. I utilize the dog-training metaphor throughout the book not as a way to vilify or demonize men, but because I think of the metaphor as a transformational framework to introduce practical tips and tools that can lead to true freedom and personal success. In my own life I’ve seen the power of what training can do, and I know it can do the same for any man who has the courage to try it and any woman who has the desire to listen.
So, are men really dogs? No. But it’s time we learn to stop acting like we are.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Are Men Really Dogs? 1
Chapter 1 Be(a)ware of the Dog 19
Chapter 2 Accept the Dog 59
Chapter 3 Master the Dog 89
Chapter 4 Don't Feed the Dog 129
Chapter 5 Claim Your Territory 149
Chapter 6 Discipline the Dog 177
Chapter 7 Create a Safe Space 205
Chapter 8 Repair the Damage 241
Epilogue: Peace 267
What Should You Read Next? 273
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Author, DeVon Franklin presents an authentic, engaging, and thought-provoking masterful display of strategic tools to Master the Dog (lust) that is an area of struggle for all men. DeVon's courageous transparency and brutal honesty tackle a topic that has crippled many men by destroying their relationships and careers. "The Truth About Men" answers the question of why many men who "appear" to be successful publicly are destroying their lives due to private failures. I highly recommend it to all men who desire to walk in truth and women who are willing to support them in their journey.