The Balls Don’t Make the Man

David Perez enjoys a great relationship with his balls. And he refuses to believe that they doom him to failure.

This piece is part of a special series on the End of Gender. This series includes bloggers from Role/RebootGood Men ProjectThe Huffington PostSalonHyperVocalMs. MagazineYourTangoPsychology TodayPrincess Free ZoneThe Next Great Generation, and Man-Making.

I like my balls. They’re my balls, I have them, they’re of me. Do my balls define me? Of course they do. They are, in part, why I have more hair on my chest than on my head at 26, why I can toss around heavy weights with relative ease, and why my brain goes on autopilot when I have to talk to a beautiful woman. Aside from the last point, my balls and I enjoy a solid relationship unmarred by recrimination, accusations of betrayal, or questions of ownership. My balls make me a man.

Yet there is obviously much more to being a man, much less a good man, than having balls. There are plenty masculine people who flaunt the products of their Y chromosomes without shame who I would not call “men.”

Some of these are adults who don’t have an excuse: an assortment of deadbeat dads, rapists, child molesters, and other rogues who have failed to uphold basic tenets of human decency. They remain humans who deserve basic dignities (however odious it may seem to some), but to call them men does injury to those who strive to decency. Most of the males who are not men, however, are boys and teenagers, men-in-training, coming to terms with the various vagaries of testicular stewardship. The vast majority of these males will grow up to become men, propagating their ideals of the manly that may or may not conform to the examples set by their predecessors. This is just fine, as a fundamental principle of adulthood is the ability to exercise self-determination. Free minds and free balls, then, are fundamentally complimentary.

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In contravention to this outlook, I often hear married men refer to their balls as “belonging to my wife.” That’s asinine as hell and needs to stop. Matrimony does not entail compromise of genital integrity. Do women say “my ovaries belong to my husband?” It’s not true, and it’s a fairly horrendous thing to say, given how arduous a fight it has been for women to assert a degree of control over their bodies and reproductive capacities. It was not so long ago that legal codes and custom in the developed world made it quite explicit that “your ovaries belong to your husband.” It sucked for everyone, and in many parts of the world, this horrendous state of affairs remains the norm. So just stop it. Your balls belong to you. To each their own reproductive organs and genitalia, to each the freedom to do what they wish with them.

Referring to “the end of men” is a similar exercise in irresponsible sensationalism. Everyone knows that an assault on one’s balls is an especially grave offense, and in one sense, the “end of men” is just this—an assault on the utility of balls. Are many men struggling in economic and social terms? This is clearly the case, most especially in educational attainment. Many (if not most) men, however, have adjusted quite well to a new social and economic reality where the expectations fundamentally differ from those from a generation or two before. Weaving the economic and social struggles of a sub-section of men into a narrative about male doom, then, is not so difficult. It is, however, lazy. The struggles of boys and men in education metrics give serious credence to Hannah Rosin’s largely uncontroversial assertion that plenty of men are floundering because of a dearth of blue-collar jobs and a tension between traditional expectations of the male breadwinner archetype and a new, far more fluid gender dynamic. In short, their balls are getting in the way of their ability to make their way in the world.

Millions of men are succeeding as role models of an updated idea of masculinity: ambitious men involved in both the nurturing and rugged aspects of fatherhood, working hard while simultaneously pursuing a broad spectrum of interests. The fact that they have balls does not doom them to a future as emasculated man-children.

Yet the worst lies obfuscate deceit in a shroud of facts, and so it is with “The End of Men” that it makes the great leap from describing discrete, real phenomena to a resigned and fatuous narrative of male doom. The title itself may very well have been a tongue-in-cheek headline designed to boost readership, and this is something that I cannot blame Ms. Rosin for doing. It certainly worked, and for that and her research on the subject I give her credit.

What I can castigate, however, is the notion implied in both her article and subsequent promotions that men are incapable of navigating this divide between past models and new expectations, in no small part because of their innate qualities. In other words, they are doomed to failure part because they have balls. It takes the devastating failures of some and extrapolates them to all without offering alternative views of any sort. There are millions of men in America and around the world who are succeeding as role models of an updated idea of masculinity: ambitious men involved in both the nurturing and rugged aspects of fatherhood, working hard while simultaneously pursuing a broad spectrum of interests. The fact that they have balls does not doom them to a future as emasculated man-children.

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The “End of Men,” then, is essentially an attack on hope. The troubles of men in school and in the labor force are undoubtedly real—I can attest to that on a personal level. But one of the ideals of masculinity that has remained salient through the vast changes in gender constructs is that there remains a premium on enduring and adapting to the situation at hand. There are many millions of men who have done just this, and many more who will do so in the future, in no small part fueled by the hope that their ambitions to succeed in their profession of choice, to be good fathers—to be good men and achieve some happiness out of life—are attainable. They have balls in every sense of the word, and they will serve as an example to their sons and grandsons that having testicles is just one part of being a man.

Photo ingridtaylar/Flickr

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About David Perez

David Perez lives in New York and wears a belt that reads 'FOR SALE' in LED lights at all times. You can talk to him about anything on Twitter @ContrarioMan.

Comments

  1. Tom Matlack says:

    Standing ovation David. Totally agree. There is a discrete issue: traditionally male industries are dying and female dominated service industries are booming. The numbers don’t lie about that. But to somehow generalize to ALL men is crazy. All the more when it’s a woman doing it. And it is a knock on hope.

    I just don’t get why gender has to be viewed as a zero sum game, where one wins and the other loses. How about we both win? Together.

  2. Ok. I’m done reading this website, thanks to the astonishing ignorance of the writers and the atmosphere of seemingly deliberate stupidity combined with congratulatory backslapping. Let me explain something to you before I go, something that should go without saying in educated company.

    “There are plenty masculine people who flaunt the products of their Y chromosomes without shame who I would not call “men.”

    All XYs that identify as men are men. Period. Attempts to emasculate men with language, to shame them by denying them their gender identity, are simply unacceptable for the exact same reason that trying to enforce your gender expectations on a woman by saying she isn’t a “real woman” if she doesn’t conform to norms is unacceptable.

    And yet your writers do it in EVERY FREAKIN ARTICLE. What is wrong with you? Do you have any education in gender studies at all? Any sensitivity or common sense? It’s astonishing. David Perez and Tom Matlack should really be ashamed of themselves for writing and approving this heteronormative trash.

    Of course, it will sell, because it deals in the same tired preconceptions accepted by the larger culture. And that’s the real point of all this, isn’t it Tom?

  3. Thank God someone is finally writing about this. I am totally sick and tired of women accusing men of thinking with their penises. I do not think with my penis. My penis is not my brain. It’s really insulting. The penis is simply a thing with a bunch of nerve endings.

    In reality I think with my testicles, not my penis.

    Can people please stop blaming the penis and get over the stereotype of the penis-brain?

  4. I’m perplexed as to why this article is causing so much ire all of a sudden. It’s a year old. The title was ridiculously sensationalistic, but the main point of the article was that we need to do something to make sure young men get the right kind of education for the work force of the future. Right now that’s not happening for a large subset of young men. That’s something I agree with.

    Is it the tone or the way she frames it that is making people so mad? And why now?

    • Michael P says:

      Black Iris,
      Hannah Rosin recently participated in an Intelligence Squared debate. I think that is the reason.

      Also, I don’t see how the main point of Rosin’s article “The End of Men” could possibly be construed as, “we need to do something to make sure young men get the right kind of education…” That statement strikes me as entirely false. In fact, I think it would be illuminating to poll readers on what they DID consider to be the main point of Rosin’s article.

      Much of the distaste I, personally, felt for Rosin’s article, came from the paragraph beginning:
      “The list of growing jobs is heavy on nurturing professions, in which women, ironically, seem to benefit from old stereotypes and habits. Theoretically, there is no reason men should not be qualified. But they have proved remarkably unable to adapt.” You should go to http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/07/the-end-of-men/8135/2/ and use CTRL+F to find this paragraph, and re-read it.

      In that paragraph, Rosin practically ignored the fact that campaigns to bring men to roles they do not typically fill are up against a whole CULTURE of negative stereotypes for men in such roles. Women, on the other hand, going to work in new roles, were attracted by campaigns for it AND a whole culture of POSITIVE stereotypes for those roles themselves. Contrast the social issues faced by: (1) a woman who strives to become a scientist, and (2) a man who strives to become a nurse. Culture today encourages young women to become scientists; it still discourages men from becoming nurses. There is the additional incentive for the aspiring female scientist of NSF-sponsored campaigns to involve women in science. For the male nurse, there is no comparable campaign.

      Rosin concludes the paragraph with a mere, “And with each passing day, they lag further behind,” as if the culture is entirely determined by the men who suffer because of it. More than half of the population is female. How can the culture be male-dominated, or even male-created? By what mechanism?

  5. If the current trends continue, it will be the end of men as we have known them, as stable fathers and members of society.

    As long as the education gap is either applauded or ignored, the social problems affecting men and hence the rest of society will continue.

    This is bad news for the kids these poor uneducated men will probably father, when they can’t even take care of themselves.

    This is bad news for educated heterosexual women, especially minority women. Who exactly are they going to enter into a stable marriage with? And don’t even think about taking a couple years off of work to be at home with a baby.

    This is bad news for businesses, which benefit from both male and female influences.

    This is bad news for our country because we are losing the ability to compete as well as countries that believe in educating both boys and girls.

    It is not any innate deficiency on the part of males. Perhaps in response to women getting the vote only in 1920 and other injustices of the past, this culture is determined that boys and men of today must pay dearly. And if that means they don’t get a decent education, so be it.

    Many blogs and websites, such as Ms. Magazine, Feministing, Jezebel and others relentlessly attack males and do all in their power to maintain the dramatic imbalance in education, to ensure that far fewer boys than girls graduate from high school and to maintain or increase the 60% vs. 40% female to male college graduation rate.

    If this trend continues, there is no way it will not be the end of men as we have known and need them.

    • Ms. Magazine, Feministing, Jezebel and other feminist websites do not relentlessly attack males and they are not trying to ensure that fewer boys than girls graduate from high school and college.

      Ms. Magazine, Feministing and other websites attack the continuing wage gap between women and men. Overall, women make less money than men, and yes, a lot of this is because of systemic discrimination.

      Tom Matlock has said that men need to help women with wage discrimination. However, he should said that men need to take equal responsibility for wage discrimination.

      Tom needs to have an article about how male bosses can respond fairly when a woman negotiates for a raise, especially since much research shows that bosses are much more likely to reward male negotiators than female negotiators.

      Tom needs to have an article about how male bosses can look at patterns of how they pay their female and male employees in similar jobs and ensure that they don’t pay the men more.

      • J.G. te Molder says:

        Sorry, but those websites DO relentlessly attack males. Hell, the regularly encourage women to hurt, abuse and even kill women.

        No, the wage gape between women and men does not come from systematic discrimination, it comes from the choices women make. Most notably, not to go to work and have a husband they clean out financially, or if you’re lucky to have babies. Women make more money then men do when graduate, even doing the same job, during the same time. Men on the other hand, to keep a woman, because they all expect a man to bring in the money, go to make careers, they start at the bottom and work themselves to the top. Men take jobs that nets them hazzard pay (and turns them in the sex that dies 93% on the work floor), women do not. Men choose to work longer hours, and get extra money that way. Further, in order to keep the wage gap myth up, feminists have to reduce themselves to, like you said, look overall; that means; at the end of the life, who made more money. Of course, a true wage gap can only be fond in how much they get paid for the same job for the same time. That is hourly wage, or monthly wage; what you find then, is that women either make equal, or more money than a man does. Finally women overall get the better paid jobs; for they are already at 60% of the college students and rising; while feminists continue to secure more free scholarships that men don’t have in the same number or extent.

        Checking the wage at the end of someone’s life, without taking into account choices; is blatant fraud.

        Once more, bullshit about bosses more likely to give raises to men. First of all, women are much less likely to negotiate a raise, while men do it all the time. So for that reason alone women would get less raises through negotiation; it’s not male bosses discriminating against women. Further, there are plenty female bosses, people want to paint a picture of male bosses only with women the eternal victim. In reality female bosses don’t give women raises either. Why is that? Men work harder, they work longer. They’re willing to work overtime; if he doesn’t bring in enough money, the wife divorces him for a richer guy. Women don’t have this problem, along with privileged princess mentality taught them by feminism, culture, family and tv, even if they did have that problem, they’d probably complain about it instead of work harder and longer. Result: they’re less likely to get a raise, and it has got nothing to do with their genitalia; but with their choices.

        Bosses already look at work patterns and how they pay people accordingly: how much work do they do, how well do they do it, how long do they work. The ones who produce more, better quality and work longer get better paid. They just happen to be men more often than not.

        • MorgainePendragon says:

          “hose websites DO relentlessly attack males. Hell, the regularly encourage women to hurt, abuse and even kill women.”

          Rubbish. Document, please.

          “bullshit about bosses more likely to give raises to men.”

          Again, rubbish:

          “We have found that if a man and a woman both attempt to negotiate for higher pay, people find a woman who does this, compared to one who does not, significantly less attractive,” said Hannah Riley Bowles…”

          http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/15/your-money/15money.html?pagewanted=all

          In fact, your post is so full of rubbish, lies, and unproven (and often unprovable) accusations, I really shouldn’t have responded.

          But I’m a stickler for the facts, when they exist.

  6. “The End of Men” is rubbish through and through. I heard the debate on NPR but I first must lay the groundwork. I never read the full article in The Atlantic so I really didn’t know the thesis. Though I have heard repeated reviews of Hanna’s work previous to hearing the debate.

    I was shocked at how juvenile the thesis is; we’re seeing “The End of Men” due to the larger number of women in college, in the workforce, and the resulting earning potential. To this I can answer with an emphatic duh!

    I suppose using the same self-evident standard, the “End of White Men” occurred about 15 years ago when white men (and white women for that matter) became a statistical minority in the US compared to all of the other races that have now called this nation their home. Whereas there are hundreds of different races, nationalities, and cultures in the world, we have only the two genders. Whoever was dominant in the post-industrial world will become less dominant when the strength events are no longer part of the program. It happened to be a skill set more inclined to male physical features than those of the female gender.

    I’m a public health technician in Texas. The extent of my training is an Associate’s Degree and that probably shows. Be that as it may, the thesis of “The End of Men” has actually made me, a male, feel a bit more empowered because it is such an easily dismissed assertion.

    • MorgainePendragon says:

      Thank you, Carl. It’s really good to know that common sense and deductive reasoning is still alive and well.

      (and as far as the idea that you have *only* an AD shows, I’d say your concise but substantive post reveals you to be much more thoughtful and practical than many with advance degrees ;-)

      • Michael P says:

        Well said on the second point, Morgaine (did you perhaps read that book by Marion Zimmer-Bradley?).

        Carl, don’t put yourself down. You’re clearly very intelligent. That’s all that shows.

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