The Nude Sterling "Rite of Passage"

By a 1992 Sterling Graduate

I am very glad that you've publicized what happens at the Sterling weekend. Perhaps others won't make this same mistake. Here is my story:


The Sterling Weekend was recommended to me--by someone I really didn't know, but was a friend-of-a-friend. I went to a meeting where about ten guys in all attended. We first had a basketball game, and, for the first time in my entire life, I was passed the ball, and was able to score a basket without a problem. This made me suspicious immediately, since I am not very athletic.

Then the guys assembled and did the soft sell, not telling me I was a loser, but giving their accounts on how [Sterling] had helped them. Professional people--one was a policeman. At this meeting, I agreed to attend the weekend--about a month later.


We first went into a room where we signed papers--basically stating that if anything happens to you, they have no legal responsibility. I figured it was a standard liability document as far as I could tell--and like the others, I signed.

After this, we were escorted outside where we were instructed to line up in formation, much like a military line. A man came by and inspected us; much like a captain would inspect his troops. He then proceeded to walk among us, and tell us that we were all "worthless piles of crap" and other put-downs, and that the weekend would make us men--it struck me as like a boot-camp.


Then, we were ushered into an adjoining gymnasium. One of the ushers was one person I saw at my "pre-weekend meeting". He smiled, but quickly the expression drained away from his face when he saw that the "captain" saw him acknowledging me. When we were first put into the gymnasium, I noticed there were four cameras at each end of the room. They were very professional looking--not just your average camcorder, but like ones I've seen when I visited a TV station. There could have been more cameras, but I can't be sure.

All of the camera operators as I recollect, were pretty, well dressed, wholesome-looking women. After maybe 30 minutes of waiting, some of the men were stir-crazy and one jumped up on the stage at the front. After testing and hearing that the mikes that were on, he said, "hey guys, this is a MEN'S weekend, if we have to have cameras, they should have MEN on them, don't you agree?" Well, there was a lot of yelling and "yeas" and after about an hour--men replaced the women as camera operators.

During this waiting period, which went on for hours, whenever someone stirred and said, "when do we begin" or whatever, the cameras would move to zoom in on him. There were cameras all around us and that continued for the duration of the weekend. Later in the evening, no cameras were in our sleeping quarters (very much like barracks) as far as I could tell, nor outside for breaks. But, other than that, the cameras were constantly recording/monitoring us in the gym.


The first contact we had with anyone telling us something from Justin Sterling's group was a very stern looking, older woman (50s) who took the stage, saying "there will be no talking"--there will be no this, no that. She basically laid out the ground-rules. After the weekend was over, she came out, was friendly and mingled amongst the men, seemingly showing that her previous stern behavior was just acting.

My weekend, for the most part, was very much like the "Open Letter About Sterling", with few exceptions. Perhaps this is because the program may have been fine-tuned since then--my experience was about six years ago [1992].

Differences from the "Open Letter about Sterling"

  • Men were not given garbage cans to pee in at the corners of the room. This did not happen with "my" weekend. We had full washroom facilities, although we weren't allowed to use them except during designated breaks. At the first break you were allowed to be late. At all other breaks, the latecomers were made to do push-ups.
  • Men were not asked at my weekend to walk around the room for fifteen minutes yelling over and over again the phrase--"When it comes to relationships, I'm a fucking jerk". Though in one of our first exercises we were paired off and had to yell at each other what we'd say to those with whom we had failed relationships with before. I think it was more like putting down your ex-partner--rather than putting yourself down.
  • After meals, the dishes were not critiqued and participants praised or criticized. Instead, everyone agreed we had a banquet for a meal and that it was a feast.

That first evening, I rested well--it was very late night and we got up at quite an early hour. We were warned to expect a surprise in the morning. What that was, was this "captain" guy walking through the hall banging a garbage can lid to wake us all up. We all were to have cold showers in the morning.

Sex Talk and Cigars

Later in the weekend, at the "sex talk" part, everyone was given cigars and encouraged to smoke while one person told of a three way sexual experience he had in his past. I am allergic to smoke and was not doing well. They did take pity on another person and me in the same predicament, and we were "allowed" to stand by an open door.

Nude Initiation Ritual

I remember the most embarrassing part--like most people I am modest and find it hard to believe that I in fact disrobed in front of strangers. Call it "Mob mentality", but I did. Near the end of the weekend, the way Justin termed it--the modern man has no "rite of passage" from boyhood to adulthood. That is--certain ceremonies like our primitive ancestors did. Part of man's problem, he surmised--we have no true marker that we have become men.

He then pleasantly asked if any among us had any questions. Those that did were led to another room, and he assured them that "all their questions would be answered shortly".

Those of us (like me) who said they didn't have any questions, after the people with questions were led out of the room--were instructed to face each other in a large circle. We were told by [Justin] Sterling to examine each man's face carefully, and if any of us saw a shred of doubt in one another that person was not ready. Then, that person too--would be asked to leave. No one said anything and all faces looked determined.

Justin laid the ground rules down--we were to create a ceremony to initiate those "non-believers" into the fold of manhood. We were to create the actual ceremony ourselves, and in order to perform this ceremony; we could have a brief discussion about it. But after that discussion--we could not use the English language. Instead we were to communicate only through a series of grunts to get the person to understand the ritual. This should be done to become "one of us" he said.

The discussion part of it was quite confusing. There were many people saying all sorts of ideas in a panic-- trying to think of something to do. Then, the time came to perform the ceremony, and Justin stipulated that we were all to be nude. Also, our task was to somehow convince the others who would be coming in to disrobe as well--non-verbally of course. There were a few "whats!?" from the crowd and much murmuring. One man sheepishly came forth and said he had a problem with being nude in front of all of us. I felt for him, because I'm sure he spoke for many that were embarrassed by disrobing (myself included). Justin assured him it was OK. I'm not sure what Justin said, but that man eventually joined the rest of us and removed his clothes. I think it was a group mentality thing - everybody around was removing their clothes.

It was up to each individual what role they played. Some picked up drums and other noisemaking devices that were made available to us by some of Justin's workers, some just stood in a line, others helped the people along--each person chose a role. A primitive, jungle sound was played over the loud speakers, the lights dimmed to near darkness and then the ceremony began.

Somehow it was organized so there would be a line of men, standing side by side, that for want of a better term; the "non-believers" would walk through. The line was fashioned in an L-Shape. The person walked down this line, and non-verbally was told to look at one man standing at the end of the line, and then they'd disrobe their clothes and put them in a big pile. When the "non-believer" disrobed, a cheer would erupt from all the men, and most of the people who did this were jubilant too, and danced around.

There were people who were so overjoyed that they'd become part of the fold, they did dance around a bit. I recall earlier in the weekend that there was a section where we were encouraged to share in each other's grief, and right afterward some music was played and we were all encouraged to dance. But this was fully clothed.

After the Weekend

After the weekend was over, you were encouraged to join up with your local chapter to "keep it alive". As far as I could tell, in the gathering of about two hundred men--I was very much in the minority by not joining with my local chapter. Most everyone else joined up.


During the weekend I noticed that when the group broke for meetings or meals, then met again, we were meeting in closer and closer groups. I knew I was being manipulated. There's a quote from Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistol's that's appropriate for the feeling I had during the weekend--"Did you ever have the feeling you've been had?" Even strong-minded individuals like myself were influenced. I knew that by challenging Sterling, I'd get nowhere. I viewed it as an endurance contest--one I was determined to win.

Why didn't it work on me? I'm a strong-minded individual, I have an extremely large bladder and I'm used to getting by on only a few hours sleep. If you don't possess these qualities--I'd say beware! Even though it didn't work on me; I was certainly crying at the "proper" points and sharing in the jubilation afterward. Make no mistake, you will be influenced and controlled if you attend this weekend.

When I left the weekend, I felt triumphant, not for the reasons that Mr. Sterling wanted, but for the fact that I'd survived with my self intact.

Note: To learn more about the process of coercive persuasion and undue influence click here

Copyright © 1998 Rick Ross
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