Developing the potential for intimacy: A phenomenological exploration of "communal" gender role in young men

Ernest Green, University of Pennsylvania


Bly (1991) speaks to the necessity of creating a language of masculinity and femininity that does not alienate the feminine in men nor the masculine in women. The present study proposes that the language employed by Bakan (1966) might be that language. That which is "communal" describes the process of connection, intimacy and dialogue that has been associated with female development, while "agency" or the "agentic" describes the processes of self-protection and individuation that have been associated with male development. Previous empirical and theoretical endeavor have stated that communion is unlikely and uncommon in men. The present study explored the experiences and recollections of a sample of twenty men between 20 and 29 years of age who demonstrated that they were "communal." Using the tenets of phenomenology and symbolic interactionism, the participants were interviewed and their recollections and experiences were analyzed for common themes that offered insight into the developmental process that leads to communion in men. It was discovered that for fourteen of the men, the development of communal skills and communal priorities was a continuous process, while for six of the men, communion was the product of a process that emerged sometime after the onset of adolescence. The experiences of the participants described processes marked by parental influence and peer support, and which led to increased ability to connect with others. The interviews with the participants confirm that communal skills and priorities do exist in some men in their 20s. The present study furthers the understanding of how our society affirms, denies, supports or systematically destroys communion in men.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Green, Ernest, "Developing the potential for intimacy: A phenomenological exploration of "communal" gender role in young men" (1992). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9227670.