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/Reboot, Good Men Project, The Huffington Post, Salon, HyperVocal, Ms. Magazine, YourTango, Psycholog
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.
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.
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.
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.