The Single Biggest Obstacle Facing Boys and Men Today

 “Men often make a mistake by thinking that they are in control over their lives, but upon closer inspection they realize they gave that up as soon as they conformed to society’s rules and expectations of their gender.”


In recent years there has been more and more articles on the state of white, heterosexual men and boys.   These articles peaked in 2009-2010 after male unemployment spiked and women officially outpaced men in the workforce. The general question has been “what is going on with boys and men and why are they struggling so much?” (If you are a gay man or man of color, this post relates to you as well, but I imagine that you are facing much more than just this stuff).

(Check out these older posts for a good backstory on the subject: Start with a funny post–Ode to the White Whipped Male by Mark Morford of SFgate. Then read The End of Men, which essentially explores how the balance of power is shifting toward women. And a superb and confronting follow up by Ann Freidman in the American Prospect called “Not the End of Men” where she cites that gender stereotypes are responsible for the man crisis going on).

Is there truth to these articles?  What is really going on with men now? Are we still suffering? And finally, if there is merit in the press about boys and men, what do we do about it?

A lot of people have weighed in on this subject. Here are a few perspectives followed up with my own.

This year, in a new book called the Demise of Guys author Phil Zimbardo claims that the reason boys and men are flailing so hard is due to arousal addiction, specifically the rampant overuse of video games and online porn. I can’t argue with this one, especially in younger men. However, these behaviors are symptoms of something deeper.

Experts like Dr. Michael Gurian say the reason men are suffering so much is because boy brains are different than girl brains and schools are designed to support girls learning style more than boys. Thus boys end up lagging behind. According to Gurian, this eventually leads to more men not finishing school thus falling “behind” in nearly every area in life.  Gurian’s work makes sense and he’s on to something important.

Then, there’s Warren Farrell, who’s most recent book The Myth of Male Power suggests that boys and men are seriously lagging behind women academically, economically, socially and psychologically. He says that men in 2011 are where women were at in 1961. Doah! In my ongoing coaching and counseling with men and couples, I couldn’t agree more.

I’d like to build upon what Farrell has found. Here’s my take…

The biggest obstacle facing men today
is their own conditioning.

Sadly, instead of growing up to be a healthy human being, men are conditioned to grow up to be “men,” which immediately limits their options to an incredibly narrow range of masculine ideals and behaviors and how the culture defines being a “man.”

The main conditioning influences for boys are:  other boys/men, their dads, TV/internet, movies, politics, and sports. Most of which still define masculinity as: Tough, strong, powerful, brave, figure it out on your own, suck it up, man up, stop whining or crying about it and get on with it, lead, don’t be a pussy, don’t act like a girl, don’t act gay, don’t act weak, don’t whine, don’t cry, money equals success, win at all costs, competition is good, be a good man, etc etc.

“don’t act like a girl, don’t act gay,”

So for a boy to survive and not be rejected by his peers and culture, he has to conform.

As these boys grow up into men, they allow someone else define who they are and how to be. As a result, men abandon and disconnect from themselves, which calcifies slowly over time. A common remedy is to medicate away this truth through addictive behaviors such as porn, drugs, alcohol tv, and technology. Men then buy what’s expected of them as their ability to listen to their own inner authority fades and thus the hamster wheel continues.

If a brave man sees through this trap, he can realize that the culture’s version of masculinity doesn’t fit for him and he can then choose to be the author of his way of being. Ironically though, if a man decides to leave the gender box behind, he will face the same gauntlet of judgment he experienced as a boy that put him in the box in the first place—more conditioning. He will be a threat to other men who want him to conform. It’s almost cult-like to remain in the gender box. Most gender-compliant men and women want other men to stay in the man-box club.

So his own conditioning becomes the tie that binds him and his fear of shame, humiliation, or ridicule is the only thing stopping him. Remember, it’s not our fault. We men didn’t choose to adhere to the man-box when we were young, we were subjected to it like cattle being herded into a pen. We had to agree. We conformed in order to avoid more shame or humiliation, and to be accepted.

For a man to even question this conditioning stuff threatens the very foundation he has built his ego around. If he wants break free from it, it will likely be an epic journey. It has been for me.

Where does this gender conditioning start and how did we get here?

I’m with researcher William Pollack who believes it starts in boyhood with the “boy code.” Pollack says the boy code is..

“…a set of rules and expectations that come from outdated and highly dysfunctional gender stereotypes: the idea that boys need to keep their emotions in check; that violence is an acceptable response to emotional upset; that their self-esteem relies on power; and that they must reject any and all signs of “feminine” qualities.”

For boys who never question the boy code, it slowly turns into the “bro code” or the man-box as they enter adulthood. When men stop questioning their own gender conditioning, it keeps them stuck in an immature stage of development that Sociologist Michael Kimmel calls “guyland.” Guyland is when a man refuses to grow up and then behaves in ways so as to not be seen as unmanly, gay, or feminine

The solution?

The way out of the man-box is straightforward and yet, will require more “work.” Men who don’t like the idea of more work won’t be up for it, which is completely understandable. Most men I work with are stressed, maxed out, and have very little room to do more stuff that’s “hard.” Notice the irony here. Men will work hard in their jobs, sports, or manual labor all day long, but when it comes to the deep personal work, men avoid it and many don’t even know it’s an option. It’s actually difficult to see there’s even another way.

So, for the small number of us that want to be our full selves and have full choice on how we want to live, and to be deeply fulfilled, the answer is to do your inner work.

That’s right. The remedy to this lack of freedom that male conditioning engenders is to dive inward through things like high-quality therapy, coaching, being mentored, men’s groups, reading, writing, art, music, wilderness, spirituality, shamanism, Ayahuasca (and other plant medicines), or a modern day rite of passage. Because as we dive inward, we gain new awareness. With new awareness, come more choices. We start to see there’s another way to live outside of the cultural man-box.

This takes courage, for a man will have to take two huge steps:

1) Acknowledge that he veered off course in the first place and quietly agreed to someone else’s version of masculinity. In other words, acknowledge that we are in a box that we didn’t author or design.

For example, once we simply acknowledge that we’ve been in a box created by our culture, we can begin to break free from it. We can also learn to embrace the inner aspects of ourselves that we’ve avoided because our culture shamed us for it. The real us can begin to emerge.

2) Move toward being a more integrated human being. This includes growing ourselves up, dismantling our own internal gender bias, and integrating three main aspects of ourselves:

a. The hurt little boy living inside of us.

b. Our feminine side.

c. Our masculine side.

The inner child

Growing ourselves up is critical to being an adult. Try being a parent. One of the first things we learn as parents is that we aren’t very grown up sometimes. We act like children, throw tantrums, and get our feelings hurt just as easy as kids.

Because most men don’t do inner work (largely because their conditioning won’t allow it), it can be assumed that most men have a hurt little boy inside who often runs the show, specifically in relationships.

By growing ourselves up, we can begin to meet the demands of our life from a place of maturity and responsibility. Rather than shaming each other into “manning up” we simply grow our fragmented self up, one step at a time.

The inner feminine

We all have masculine and feminine traits inside of us. Most normal men have completely cut themselves off from anything that resembles feminine so as to fit into the man-box. Had you told me I had something called an “inner feminine” living inside of me twenty years ago I would have made fun of you.

“Had you told me I had something called an “inner feminine” living inside of me twenty years ago I would have made fun of you.”

Yet once I began to really work on myself in psychotherapy, I eventually saw how my inner feminine held the key to getting out of the gender box that kept me stuck, unsatisfied, and alone.

My work with my inner feminine has allowed me to reclaim all of the sensitivity in me that was shunned as a child. I also realized that I was indeed capable intimacy and relationship. I learned that I was very intuitive, creative, and emotional. By accepting this part of me, I could begin to access the “real me.” My inner work with her is ongoing.

Finally, once we embrace the conscious feminine hidden within we can stop being at war with the feminine on the outside—mother, girlfriend, wife, and even the earth.

The Inner Masculine

By “cleaning up” his masculine side, a man might have to confront real issues about where he learned masculinity—namely his own father and other men who were in positions of power as he grew up.

And if a man can confront the cultural box of masculinity, his own internal masculine files will need to be updated. This includes his relationship to shame, and power/agency.

If we find out we have been in a box, and dive inward, we’ll eventually find shame. Most men bury shame so far down, there’s zero awareness that it’s there.

For example, growing up I got shamed for being a sensitive emotional boy. Because I wasn’t allowed to feel my reaction to being shut down in this way, I buried it deep inside and postured over it. Thus, as an adult, I’ve had to bring my shame into the light. I have had to reconcile that disowned part of me that feels ashamed of who I am. I’m also reclaiming being sensitive and emotional.

Men will also have to confront their own use of power and what power means. Learning how to own our power (trusting that we won’t hurt others) is critical for an adult male. Men typically either abuse power or shy away from it. Each man will have to find out how to wield his sword with mind, heart and soul.  Right use of power includes having agency— what William Farrell calls “control over one’s life” or what Nelson Mandela called “being the captain of my soul.”

Men often make a mistake by thinking that they are in control over their lives, but upon closer inspection they realize they gave that up as soon as they conformed to society’s rules and expectations of their gender. This can be seen in men who feel “obligated” to work a certain job or get married and have kids which, in a traditional sense is still the pinnacle of male “success.” However, as Warren Farrell points out, this isn’t true power.  True power for a man is about having agency over his life.

Instead most men are a slave to their gender’s expectations of success—house, cars, high paying jobs, marriage and kids. Heterosexual men will even compete for the status and approval of each other by climbing even higher on the gender latter. The classic “American Dream” is one example that keeps men developmentally, psychically, and spiritually way behind women, and men don’t even question it.

Growing ourselves up in these three areas helps us find the way back home to our “real” selves. By doing our inner work, we can learn to be ourselves and no longer get caught up in what other men or women think of us.  We can find the authentic expression of us, no matter how masculine or feminine we are and learn to live from that place. This I believe is where we begin to redefine “the masculine.” Rather than try to “act like a man” or  “get masculinity right,” we aim instead to be an integrated human being.

“when men listen to someone else define manhood for them, instead of using their own intelligence and being the true author of their own life, they end up buying the culture’s narrow version of masculinity without question”

Remember, when men listen to someone else define manhood for them, instead of using their own intelligence and being the true author of their own life, they end up buying the culture’s narrow version of masculinity without question and then raise their kids that way. And when men and women tell boys that they need to act like a boy or man, we build fences around them like cattle, and then complain when they don’t act like their gender. With this approach adults and kids lose. Ouch.

For brave men who want to be in control of their life, the path will be to transcend the gender box and dismantle their conditioning. This is path to more and more personal choice and freedom.

Finally, as we raise our boys, we owe it to them to be very mindful of the ways we collude with the boy code and the man-box. Let’s aim higher and go deeper by supporting our boys in being who they naturally are.

Join the Raising Boys community here.



About Jayson Gaddis

Jayson Gaddis, host of The Smart Couple Podcast, is THE breakthrough marriage and relationship coach for smart, successful, people. He’s on the planet to help people learn and master intimacy and relationship. He’s a husband and part-time stay-at-home Dad getting schooled by his two cosmic kids. Jayson writes his own highly personal blog, and has also written for Integral Life, Digital Romance, The Jungle of Life, Primer Magazine, Recovering Yogi, & Elephant Journal. You can find him here: Jayson Gaddis or sign up for this month's free training If Your Man Unavailable or Shut Down. You can also become a fan on Facebook here: Jayson Gaddis Fan Page.


  1. Guy Garcia says:

    It’s worth noting, I think, that my book, The Decline of Men, fits–conceptually and chronologically–between The Myth of Male Power (which was written by a male former feminist) and the End of Men (which was written by a woman). It’s clear from the mostly cogent discussion around Gaddis’s able recap of the state of the modern male that many of the issues I wrote about are still being debated and worked out. But I hope that one thing we can all agree on is that the boxes that men and women live in are cut from the same cardboard. My perspective these days is that the traditional box that once defined and confined masculinity has buckled and fragmented into dozens, maybe thousands, of alternate, and often conflicting, versions of what it means to be a man. Is this progress? I guess. As women continue their upward social and economic trajectory, I’m hoping that they will gain the traction and courage to transform the outdated social norms and institutions that were built largely by and for men, rather than just displacing and replacing guys as the new bosses of the same old patriarchal system. A meaningful evolution of male identity can’t happen without a corresponding transformation in female attitudes and aspirations — and vice versa.

  2. Thank you for writing this. Men have become worthless and cruel in their efforts to be a man. This needs to change!

  3. Arealcaliforniawoman says:

    As a mom, having raised a daughter and now a son, I think these are all interesting comments. As an over 40 female civil engineer working in a male dominated industry I can see where you are going with this – but I want to point something out. The fallout from the baby boomers. Jason’s comment is key – those men that are from about 40 – 75 are a mess. They have been living a lie (on many levels) and now the next few generations are paying for it. The women in this age group are also a mess. They don’t know who they are – they are living in la-la land. They bought lifestyles they couldn’t support by getting overextended, masking life through drugs and alcohol, turning away from faith. All of my bosses are over 50 men… and have no sense of self. They are willing to lie and cheat to make sure they don’t look bad. Just so sad. What is worse is how many women are scared of them… really… scared of a liar and cheater? Lastly, interesting website….

    • I am 64. I spent much of my life as a Lighting Designer in the same industry as you. I don’t recognise the people you talk about. I ran my own practice with a good balance of male and female designers. I saw no scared women.

      • Joe Joeseph says:

        I would like to request women stop saying an area is “male dominated”. “Male dominated” just leaves the comment open to the worst possible interpretation (e.g. like men bullying the women to demoralize them and quit so they can have their male privilege in tact).

        In fact it may well be the case that the men are very respectful to the women who work there and even help them and would not do anything to discourage additional women from applying — but they didn’t and so that’s why it’s staffed by more men than women. So if you mean that then say it. If it was staffed by more men than women, then say “staffed by more men than women”.

  4. Again Jason, you’re spot on here. Our culture sees so much of the external that we lack the emotional maturity to move beyond the mores that define our gender. What I see is that the cycle perpetuates itself since we lack good male role models and mentors. The vacuum is then filled with two dimensional characters we see in movies, TV and video games. Thus the cycle continues. My hope is that messages like this would help break us out of this mold and become more integrated with our emotions.

  5. I agree with many of the posters further up that positive outlook or breaking gender-norms for men is only part of the solution as the problem is much larger, than just the strait-jacket of cultural norms men face.

    Men also face systemic discrimination in the areas of preventative care, mental health, reproductive rights, domestic violence victim rights, parental rights, education (including many of the networking/mentoring programs that are women only), the prison industrial complex (the gender sentencing disparity disadvantages men almost as much as the racial sentencing disparity disadvantages blacks).

    The issue is that boys are getting if from all sides today. Young men are losing hope and dropping out of society because it has become clear that the power-brokers views them at best as a 2nd thought to be ignored, and at worst as thugs to be locked away on almost any trivial (witch-hunt style) trumped up charges (duke 3).

    This article only addresses a small portion of what men and boys are facing. That said, despite it’s limitations, I overall liked this article and agree with the sentiment.

  6. Changeling says:

    This is a great article, but I’m pretty sure that referring to gender-conforming men as “normal men” is part of the problem.

  7. The so called ‘demise of men’ is patriarchal, femmephobic, gender-policing bullshit, and females coming to dominate the workforce and schools is also bullshit, males are still greatly and suspiciously ‘over acheiving’ in these fields

    • Consider the statistical data on high school and college graduation rates for males vs. females if you want know the facts. If you’d rather no know, carry on as you were.

  8. I find it interesting that when I mentioned that women should be included in that list some folks preceded to jump all over it (and I think a few even accused me of trying to say it was all women’s fault despite my “as well”).

    That’s one of my problems when it comes to trying to address the things that harm men. Why is it so taboo to say that when it comes to harming men women are a part of the process too? Are we trying to address all the things that harm men or just the ones that leave women free of taking on any responsibility?

    And also are supposed to simultaneously believe in how women are traditionally tasked with raising children (to the point that some people won’t even acknowledge that men are pushed away from raising children unless you say it in a way that makes it all about women) and that they have no influence on male children? Or is this one of those things where women have all sorts of power and are equal to men….until it comes to the capacity to do something bad then all of a sudden they are puppets of teh patriarchy, having no agency or will of their own?

    • FlyingKal says:

      Thanks Danny. This is something I’ve also brought up on occasion in similar discussions, but it seems to be something that people are very reluctant to discuss.
      Seems to be a subject that can get even somewhat hardcore feminists to retort to “Boys will be boys”-argument… 😉

    • John Anderson says:

      It’s not just that. When it comes to analyzing things that harm men, it is often assessed based on the harms it presents to women. It’s almost like if it doesn’t affect women at least tangentially, it’s not a problem.

  9. Jason, thanks for citing what others are saying and adding your own perspective. Like all big changes going on in society the “man crisis” is really a crisis that everyone faces, both male and female. And yet men face unique challenges. We die sooner and live sicker at every stage of life and the suicide rates for men are 4 to 18 times higher than they are for women and skyrocket as we age.

    We need to focus both on the personal things we can do to reclaim our true selves and also change the social forces that make it difficult for us to be who we are. My new book, MenAlive: Stop Killer Stress with Simple Energy Healing Tools, comes out today (Father’s Day). We all have a role to play and sharing our stories is one of the best ways to heal our own wounds and offer support too others.

  10. What a bunch of horse hockey…….this article doesn’t / won’t change anything, except to the 15-16 people willing to wade through this nonsense.

    What this looks like to me is the usual formula – write something controversial, OR, about a subject that appeals to women from a combative standpoint – for the purpose of attracting eyeballs or lining somebody’s pockets.

    Regular guys don’t care about this stuff. Only some women and gays care.

    Kaviani sez:

    “Likewise, there’s a general recalcitrance among males (not just straight ones) to have to do anything. Motivation is key, but the only motivators I’m seeing are sex and cash. Not exactly character building motivations.”.

    That’s right……we don’t. We have found that getting involved legally with the typical American woman will eventually be a losing proposition, the only question is how long until that happens.

    The feminists have build this PC slum, with help from the legislators and courts. It’s a trap for men. We don’t have to get married to get laid, we can keep trading in the gal that wants to get married for a new, younger model, who has not yet felt the ticking clock.

    I am not married, and I am not going to be. I can get everything I want without risking 10 years of slave-labor if the missus happens to read the wrong magazine article.

    I hope this trend of guys dropping out continues – women and America deserve it.

  11. The Blurpo says:

    In sintesis what is the boy crisis? boys are not conforming to societal expectations.

    What are they doing? the stereotype claims they play videogames and watch porn.
    Practically they are doing what it pleases them. So are they paying for playing…what I know WoW? well yes. Are they paying for porn? well maybe unless they get it for free.

    In other words, they use their money for their favorite activities. Are they harming somebody? I dont think so.

    So whats the problem? beside men non conforming to societal expectations, I dont see anything wrong in what they are doing. They are simply doing what it pleases them, and most of the time, they pay for it.
    Lets be honest, there arent any boy crisis, instead the so-call crisis belong to the society who places unrealistic and obsolete expectations on boys. Let them rot. Boys keep doing what you like, there isnt anything wrong with you all. And there isnt simply anything to redefine but to cancel. Masculinity and femininity belong to a museum, just like a old steam train. People are people and boys or girls, they all do what they like. Some oldo’s have a hard time for that. But let mathusalem die. He/she shouldn dictate what people should do or not.


    • John Anderson says:

      I generally agree with you except that I believe that the educational system has been optimized to support the success of girls to the detriment of boys. I think this must be address to ensure that boys are actually doing what they want instead of settling for the best of what society will give them.

  12. wellokaythen says:

    I think in this article, and the related articles mentioned, men are getting very mixed messages about what the problems are and what they’re supposed to do. I don’t think the advice is totally consistent.

    For example, the _Demise of Guys_ book focuses a lot on the idea that young men today are not finishing school, not trying very hard to get a job, not being as successful as their fathers’ generation. They just don’t have the spark of ambition any more. They aren’t going out there and taking the world by storm. So, they’ve rejected all that hard work ethic and ambition that earlier generations of men had. They’ve LOST traditional masculine values.

    On the other hand, I read here that young men are TOO much conditioned with traditional masculine values. They are too competitive, too focused on traditional masculine models of success. They are too focused on making money, getting all the trappings of worldly success, working up the hierarchy, etc.

    So, now I’m confused. Men are too much bound up in competitive male ambition and not enough male ambition. What’s wrong with men is that we are status-seeking workaholics and passive couch potatoes. (One wonders where men today find the time to be overwork AND spend all day watching porn.)

    I get the sense that for many young men today, rejecting the corporate and educational rat-race is a kind of rejection of traditional male gender limits. Or at least it feels that way to them.

    In addition, we have agency over our lives, but if you buy into current gender values that control disappears. So, we can break out of our gender straightjacket, but we can’t break out of our gender straightjacket.

    I think men face enormous challenges today, as men as well as human beings in general. Perhaps what most of these advice books are losing sight of is the historical fact that just about every generation for the past few centuries, if not longer, has wondered why men of that era are just not as good as previous generations. There is a quite profitable publishing industry out there telling everyone why they’re so bad and what they need to do to fix their lives.

    Imagine if we all looked around today and discovered that men are not doing so badly at all. (I don’t think that would be an accurate interpretation, but let’s say hypothetically that’s true.) Think of all the authors, life coaches, talk show hosts, and journalists who would be forced to look for gainful employment elsewhere. If I wrote a book with the thesis that things are actually going pretty well for many men right now, sales of the book would be pretty low, even if I could find a publisher. Telling older people that their children will be alright in the world is just not as interesting as telling them their children are in deep trouble.

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      wellokaythen, you do have a valid point. if we view folks as broken, they tend to think they need to be fixed and will probably pay someone to help them. true indeed. your confusion makes sense and I so appreciate your perspective here. It seems like you are saying that telling men what’s wrong with them, isn’t very motivating right? that they might already feel a shitload of shame and this could add more shame no?

      I do hold the high-level view that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with any of us, however i live in realitive reality where “right action” is helpful and I get to “want” things and people to be different, but i don’t need them to be.

    • John Anderson says:

      “If I wrote a book with the thesis that things are actually going pretty well for many men right now,”

      You would be very popular in feminist circles.

  13. There is a male sex and a female sex. There is now a cultural marxist idea based on theories (projections) claiming there is such a thing as “gender” in living being — gender being a “social construction.” When we read the words “male gender” we are really reading about a social engineering belief. I’m old enough before the UN/US decided to changed “prison” to “detention center” and “personnel office” to human resources” and “the two sexes” to “the two (or more?) genders.” Also, before this top-down language engineering occurred, I had read Orwell on the use of language by social engineers to manipulate the subjects of the “experts” who want to control the masses. I recommend a dialog between older people and younger ones about these manipulations and their meaning.

    • This is a great idea, but I for one can’t see it getting very far unless both the older and younger cohort is comprised of intellectuals with an interest in rhetoric and/or gender issues (oops, there’s the g-word again).

      Yes, a lot of people over 50 could opine over the turn to shmancy fancy nomenclature, but most wouldn’t have a clue where, how, or why it originated. Most culture is like that to most people: things happen to them, they don’t know why, so they shrug and go with it.

  14. Jayson, I am loving your articles and the conversation you are bringing to the table. Your articles really seem to get to the grit of digging your hands in to reach out to boys and men. And I love that. Your leadership in this area is very exciting!

  15. Great article (as usual), my brother. Working with men’s groups, I have found my own challenge to be maintaining faith in many of these beliefs you suppose. So many men I work with are stuck in a victim stance-with conviction-that it keeps them from standing up and facing themselves. It’s a lot to overcome in supporting masculine transformation, yet articles like this give me more juice for the work ahead!

  16. Wow, a lot of attempts to hijack the “crisis” theme and convince us that meddling females and their egghead minions are the only ones doing any conditioning.

    • Sorry, I must have missed the comments which said that only women are doing any conditioning, can you point them out for me since you have identified a lot of them. All I can see is an original post listing only men as doing any conditioning and people who correctly are pointing out that women in fact do contribute as well to the conditioning of boys/men. So unless you can point out a lot of comments saying that women are the only one conditioning boys/men I have to assume that you either don’t think women contribute to male conditioning at all or that you willfully mischaracterize a lot of comments for god knows what purpose.

      • You bet women contribute. But it’s not just women.
        Sorry, I’ve read a fair bit of hard right MRA misogyny online and something, somewhere, probably triggered memories of that.

  17. This is really off in places, and a couple of things got me riled. Point by point:

    “wilderness, spirituality, shamanism, Ayahuasca (and other plant medicines), or a modern day rite of passage.”

    Shamanism? Really? This is the 21st century. And wasn’t that someone else’s culture in the first place, anyway? Strike one for the New Age – but in my experience it’s but a short step from all that to cults, pseudoscience, and other degenerative nonsense. Not good for you, I think.

    “addictive behaviors such as porn, drugs, alcohol tv, and technology”

    And over the hill come the Horsemen of the Cultural Apocalypse! One-by-one:

    Alcohol and drugs: lushes gonna lush. That’s been true for the entirety of human history, and I see nothing new here. In fact the major concern in the UK is over skyrocketing numbers of young female binge drinkers, but nobody talks about this in terms of a crisis in femininity. Nor should they, because that would be silly for obvious reasons. As for drugs: some people are morons. Moving on….

    Porn: so wildly does the internet resound to terrifying tales of budding relationships ruined by the heartlessness of thoughtless young porn-addicted men – and yet somehow I never encounter these relationships in real life. Where are they? Do they exist? Will no young men own up to matching the stereotype? Alright, I’ll give it a stab. I’m 20 and like my porn. Not just porn either; I have a tumblr feed dedicated to beautiful erotica. Porn doesn’t just scratch an itch when my girlfriend leaves town, but is literally an infinite wellspring of inspiration if you want to get better as a lover (and after my previous LTR ended, I sure as hell did) because if you look hard enough, there’s some good stuff out there. For free! There are real benefits to porn/erotica, and yet no one ever talks about these. Who’s to say that porn isn’t making young people more open and exploratory about their sexual kinks and variants? Isn’t this preferable to them being left ignorant and secretly ashamed of desires they cannot access or explain? Isn’t there this huge media buzz about 50 Shades of Grey doing the same thing for the housewives of the West? If someone writes the Femdom version of 50 Shades, we’ll have a perfect wrap. At any rate, my lover and I have awesome sex together, and I for one will pay porn its dues. Porn can have a wonderful influence that nobody has the balls to acknowledge.

    TV and technology – well, I admit it was frustrating when half my mates disappeared for two weeks when Starcraft came out, but oh, well. Gamers gonna game, and I since I spend far too much money and time on Magic the Gathering and poker (both online and live), I can hardly talk. But you’ve got to have some hobbies, some joys and passions that make your time off worth it, and there are worse things to be into. Rather than shaming people for what they love, wouldn’t it be more constructive to let them be themselves, and, if required, lend a helping hand occasionally if they find their duties and entertainments tricky to balance? You may find it hard to imagine, but there are people who really do want to spend their time this way. Live and let live. All you’re doing here is trying to warp young men to fit your own box, constructed by your own stereotyped notions. And I rather think that’s counterproductive, and, more importantly, wrong.

    “ men developmentally, psychically, and spiritually way behind women, and men don’t even question it.”

    You must be joking, right? Do you have any evidence for this ridiculous assertion, at all? Because I really don’t see it. Anywhere. I look around and – nope, just not seeing it.

    “b. Our feminine side.
    c. Our masculine side.”

    Oh, the tired old gender binary is back, I see. Despite your claims to have escaped it, the language of this article irredeemably stinks of the same old thinking that masculinity and femininity are these absolute, rigid, polar-opposite constructs we must somehow, impossibly unify to achieve a perfect synthesis. For the last time: when my mates and I trash-talk each other we are not performing masculinity; when we have long heart-to-hearts about our relationships we are not performing femininity; when I listen to opera or Lady Gaga or watch pro wrestling I am not performing queerness; when I make love to my girlfriend or read Hemingway I am not performing heteronormativity – all these things are part of the rich tapestry of being human. Being human is something that most people manage to do entirely authentically and unselfconsciously, and they do it well. Articles like this insist on seeing performances that simply aren’t there. Male, female, in-between – really there is precious little difference between us all. In fact, the only place I really see serious arguments to the contrary are in pieces like this and at – guess where? RadFemHub!

    I call bullshit on this entire notion that there is some crisis of masculinity, because it does not fit with the picture I see around me of ordinary, decent people living extraordinary lives, and for the most part living them well. If I was being really cynical, I would say that the whole thing sounds like a convenient marketing tactic for the therapy/self-help industries – but no. I have been told by my elders I am far too cynical far too young, and so I will not say it.

    • I just want to mention that my boyfriend got into some of that New Agey drum-beating shamanistic men’s movement stuff awhile back and it really helped him work through some issues. He’s a rational, scientific guy, so on one level he knew it was all slightly ridiculous. But from a purely rational point of view, a lot of things are ridiculous. Beating a drum in the woods is a creative, emotional experience, like theater. That said, there are some New Agey groups out there that are borderline cult like, so buyer beware. if they keep telling you to spend more money, walk away.

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      ACS, first, Easy with the shaming language.

      I”m stoked for you that porn is helpful. You are a rare case in my experience. I love sex and tools that help us all deepen into our authentic sexuality. However, modern day porn meets most men where they are developmentally, which is an immature version of sexuality. Many of these guys who view porn are, in my experience, in pain. Porn offers respite from that pain. It’s very effective in the short term. But ask 50 women if porn is helping their man enhance his sex life. Sounds like it is for your partner, but not for most. If porn was so awesome, we’d all see a healthier culture sexually and we are beyond dysfunctional sexually as a culture IMO and getting more and more confused by the minute.

      Regarding all your gender comments, read Warren Farrell, seriously. The key is balance inside ourselves. use whatever language you want. masculine, feminine, dark, light, open, closed. The polarity is both necessary and critical to us being integrated human beings.

      • trey1963 says:

        Why would you ask 50 women? It’s not all about them…..Why are men to be judged by women’s criteria yet if a woman is judged by men’s criteria that’s automatically wrong? Why is a woman viewpoint the Gold Standard?

        • I guess it depends on whether you want to develop your sexuality in the context of a relationship with another person, or not. There is nothing wrong with solo sexuality (in fact,it’s healthy) but most people also want to be able to relate to others in a sexual way. So the question is whether spending a lot of time looking at porn helps you develop your ability to have satisfying sexual relationships, or hinders it. Personally I think it depends on each individual, but there are men who realize at some point that porn is getting in the way. I think if someone is using porn, erotica, romance novels, or whatever, to hide from others and avoid connecting, that can be a problem. I was a shy kid and from an early age, I preferred to stay in my room and read books all the time because it was safer that trying to socialize. In retrospect, that was probably harmful to my social development. Some reading is good, but spending the entire weekend holed up in my room with my books, for months on end, was not good. When I was a teenager, I started reading a lot of boddice-ripper romance novels and, to be totally frank, masturbating to them. I hated the dumb stories in those books, but I would skip around to find the “good parts” (sounds a lot like a guy watching porn…). Meanwhile I never had dates because I hardly ever went out. Was this healthy? No.

          • John Anderson says:

            “I think if someone is using porn, erotica, romance novels, or whatever, to hide from others and avoid connecting, that can be a problem.”

            I’ve read about how excessive porn use can affect a guy’s ability to enter into a relationship with women. It gives him an unreasonable expectation of beauty and what to expect in the bedroom. When men got addicted after entering into a relationship, it negatively impacted their partners self esteem. One of the things I thought was interesting was that there was some suggestion that excessive masturbation resulted in men not able to orgasm PIV because guys had more control and could adjust the tightness of their grip, etc.

            That being said, I’ve always been hesitant about classifying an activity a person willingly engages in as bad when it doesn’t impact anyone else negatively. If a man chooses to engage in porn over a relationship with a real woman, why is that a problem? Porn use has broken up relationships and that’s the point, but no one is owed a relationship. The women weren’t required to stay in them. It may be personally damaging, but don’t we have the right to enter into such behaviors unless it reaches an extreme like suicide, then the state or society can step in.

      • What is “authentic” sexuality? For that matter, what is “fake”?

      • John Anderson says:

        @ Jayson Gaddis

        “But ask 50 women if porn is helping their man enhance his sex life.”

        Why wouldn’t you just ask the men? Sure, some guys use porn as a substitute for women. Sometimes it’s a substitute for the woman in their current relationship. That’s why you don’t ask the women. They’ll base it on whether their man is satisfying their needs instead of his. If a man rejects his girlfriend for porn, it’s because he’s found porn more fulfilling. Why should a man’s sexual satisfaction be defined by anyone other than himself?

        Some guys probably fear rejection or have been rejected so many times that they are no longer in the game, but we’ll never question whether women’s standards are too high. We’ll shame men for harassing women on the street by saying hello or trying to strike up a conversation, but if men choose not to be in the game, it’s a catastrophe.

        • John Anderson says:

          “If the We is being discounted for the I, then perhaps that person should exit the relationship if he or she isn’t fulfilled instead of being a passive participant and potentially hurting the other person.”

          Agreed, but both people have the option and opportunity to exit the relationship. A guy may not because he doesn’t view it as cheating. That brings up the idea of emotional cheating, which I think both genders are to some extent guilty of. I think women are more prone to that so society won’t frown on emotional cheating as much as porn (or fantasy) cheating.

        • Jayson Gaddis says:

          John, men think they drop women b/c porn is more fulfilling, but that’s a cop out. most men choose porn over women b/c it’s easier. real relationships are freakin’ hard. it takes work to deal with another human being all day long, especially the opposite gender. porn is one-way.

          • John Anderson says:

            “but that’s a cop out. most men choose porn over women b/c it’s easier. real relationships are freakin’ hard. it takes work to deal with another human being all day long”

            Even if you’re right, they still made the decision that it’s not worth it. That’s the point I’m making. Each man should be able to make his choices and have those choices respected. Regardless of the reason he may choose porn over his partner, his partner should respect his choice and if that’s a deal breaker, go their separate way. That doesn’t mean that the partner doesn’t have the right to negotiate or suggest that he seek help for a porn addiction if she feels that he’s trapped. For example, he might want anal and oral because he saw it in a movie. She might agree to oral, but not anal, etc. If at the end of the day, he chooses porn over his partner, his choice should be respected. If his partner chooses to leave, her choice should be respected as well.

            No one should be forced to have sex they don’t want, even men.

            • It’s kind of passive aggressive to do something that is hurtful to your partner, like preferring porn over the relationship, then saying “well if you don’t like it, you can leave.”

              I’m not talking about occasional porn use or porn use shared with a willing partner, or a situation where a man uses porn because his wife refuses to have sex or whatever, but a situation where, as you described it, the man really just prefers porn to interacting with a partner.

              • John Anderson says:

                @ Sarah
                “It’s kind of passive aggressive to do something that is hurtful to your partner, like preferring porn over the relationship, then saying “well if you don’t like it, you can leave.”

                Good point and thanks. I’m not sure if that’s what everyone else was trying to tell me, but the way you phrased it really helped me understand the position. I’m still a big bodily autonomy/freedom of association guy. I think there are things that are wrong and things that are simply undesirable, but that does give me something to consider.

                • I think that may be what many of us were trying to say. It gets back to expectations set by the couple. If there is an expectation at the beginning of shared intimacy, and someone is cutting off with no explanation other than “you are not fulfilling me but this is, and if you don’t like it leave.” that can cause pain to the partner that will be hard to heal.

                  Rather, why not say actively, “I need to exit this relationship because I’m not fulfilled and prefer not to be intimate with you which I know hurts, but it’s more fair for you to be on your own to find someone who can better match your needs since I cannot.”

                  But if all is going on is Person A hiding, hedging, denying and just cutting off the emotionality/communication/intimacy in favor of anything actually (porn, emotional cheating, gambling etc) and then not ending the relationship, that’s a particular kind of toxicity to the relationship. Person B should also draw a firm boundary around their needs but often they get stuck in thinking if they change their partner will return.

                  Both should have a sit down.

                  • John Anderson says:

                    It was the term passive aggressive that got me. I know you brought up passive, but I never put together that the passivity could be a form of aggression and because something is not done directly to a person doesn’t mean that it’s not abusive. I knew it wasn’t desirable. I was having difficulty determining why it might indeed be wrong. I don’t know how that would intersect with a person’s right to follow their own heart or engage in self destructive behaviors. In conventional cheating, the point is usually defined as when you want to have sex with another person without your spouse’s permission, gambling when you lose more than your allotted share of discretionary spending on entertainment. Emotional and fantasy cheating are harder to assess.

                    That also brings up the question of how much compromise and coerced sex constitutes abuse. I read that one manifestation of the damage of excessive porn use is an unreasonable expectation in the bedroom. Demands from one partner for the other to perform acts they are uncomfortable with. Neglect and passive aggressive behavior is just one manifestation. A partner’s feelings of inadequacy or unattractiveness is another. The line is clear when the partner says no, but what if they continue to agree even if they would rather not?

                    I agree that it should be discussed and negotiated even though it opens the potential for other potentially abusive behaviors. Help for porn addiction (as well as other addictions) should be available to people and a spouse should be able to suggest it if they feel that their partner can’t make rational decisions on their own addiction. They should also be able to make it a condition of staying married. I agree that if a person comes to the conclusion that their fantasy is preferable to their reality, they should be honest with their partner and probably end the relationship, but I don’t think their partner needs to wait for that and can initiate the discussion or exit the relationship.

                    What do you think about the possibility of converting the relationship to an “open” relationship? The relationship would be equal, but no longer necessarily monogamous.

  18. Eric M. says:

    “Sadly, instead of growing up to be a healthy human being, men are conditioned to grow up to be “men,” which immediately limits their options to an incredibly narrow range of masculine ideals and behaviors and how the culture defines being a “man.”

    If things are worse now, as you say, then this can’t be the cause, since there’s less of this than there ever was in the past.

    The problem is a breakdown of the family unit and societal misandry. As evidence of what has been fone to males over the last 40 years, neither the federal, state, or local governments care that boys and men are 20-30% behind in education.

    For a fact, if the genders were reversed they would be spending hundreds of millins to help males reach equality. However, if the goverent took steps to help boys, the gender warriors would accuse them of waging a war on women and girls.

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      help me understand why you feel like a victim to women? I’d really like to know…

      • The hell? I mean I’ve seen strawmanning, but this level of straw is absolutely amazing.

        Hey Eric, help me understand why you feel like a victim to alien lizard people. I’d really like to know. (Well, if we’re going to put words in people’s mouths, let’s at least make them interesting words.)

      • John Anderson says:

        I don’t think he said he was. “societal misandry”, “federal, state, or local governments”, “the gender warriors”. If I’m missing something, please explain.

  19. faithless says:

    If I were to be “true to myself” all the time and be apologetically male “as I and not somebody else sees fit” I would be labeled a raging misogynist. The idea that you can avoid being one by being yourself is quite untrue in my experience.

    you can choose the man box or you can choose the feminist box, but just being yourself just makes everybody hate you.

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      faithless. your name might speak to it? if you think just being yourself makes everyone hate you, that would suck. that’s not how i see it at all. how can you move from victimhood into a place of more agency and power for yourself given the external reality?

  20. I completely disagree with the argument that the present masculinity crisis is due to any abstract concept like man box. The crisis is mainly due to the rapid social, economic and even political changes that have been slightly unfavorable towards men and boys. They are trying hard to cope with these changes. The present economic condition does not offer the kind of opportunities that men deserve. Break down of family values and even families, have left boys directionless. To top all of it, the present political condition is all about appeasing the so-called victim groups, instead of working to solve the problems of those who have the potential to contribute to society. Moreover, this so called man crisis is of recent origin when social and political climate is much liberal. There was no masculinity crisis when the social norms and expectation were much more strict.

    • soullite says:

      Some of this I agree with, some of I don’t. However, the underlying truth is clear: every change in this society has come at the expense of men.

      The answer, more or less, has been to blame video-games and pornography as if they were the problem. They are not. The problem is an elite – in both parties – that shipped all of the good jobs overseas and pocketed the resulting profits. The problem is that this same elite have cheered while the girls and women of my generation focused all of their attentions on sleeping with (and bearing children by) boys and men who wouldn’t even return their phone calls once the act was done, leaving the actual SES equals of those women (a large majority of men) both mateless and sexless. The problem is an elite that’s decided that male sexuality is evil – that men shouldn’t ‘need’ sex to be happy, even if we do, and that any complaint to the contrary was an announcement that we have a right to rape, or some other such nonsense. The problem is an elite that passed so many laws that if a man so much as steps out of line, they will find something – some minor act such as spitting on a sidewalk or slamming a door too loudly – to have them beaten and arrested, then sent to prison to be raped and tortured while the guards look on and laugh. The problem, in short, is that there is no hope and no future. No amount of complaining about ‘men today’, or their habits, will change that.

      You want men to be good men? Then give them a reason to be good men. Give them a future – families, jobs and the purpose that comes with those things. Because if you don’t – if you really let a whole generation of men fester with no attachments to this society – then it won’t end well. We don’t have an economy that can paper over these resentments. We don’t have a respect for the rule of law strong enough to hold people in line. It’s considered an axiom of political science that the most dangerous thing to any society is an unmarried, unemployed young man. Well, look at the marriage rates among Millenials. Look at the unemployment rate among men under 35. Either we give these folks a place in our society, or we twiddle our thumbs until one of them lights a spark that’ll burn this whole thing down

      • I completely agree. The so-called intellectuals and social scientists are paying too much attention to the frivolous things like video games and pornography, and abstract concepts like social expectations, instead on focusing on the real issue underlying the present masculinity crisis.
        The basic fact is that no person is either good or bad, but we have a instinct to survive and propagate. If the social and other factors encourage person achieve these basic things in good manner, the we get good civilized people, otherwise we create brutes who do not care about others and society at large.

        As for the political and social elites, they must not be pushing common people too hard, otherwise they might suffer the fate of patrician class during the French revolution i.e guillotine.

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      Rapses, I agree that part of the issue is social, economic and political factors for sure. I’d say “predatory corporate capitalism” to use Robert Jensen’s term is a massive factor. but even still, as an individual i have a choice on how i respond in a broken system and who to be in that system. Here’s his link:

      And soulite, the “elite”? who are you taking about? the top 1%? that is still by in large, white males. Everything you speak of is indeed an issue, however I don’t want people to “be good men.” that’s just another box. i want freedom for all.

      • Jayson, Most of the articles related to the so-called masculinity crisis, including this article, shy away from discussing the real issues and instead focus on some abstract concepts, thereby defeating the very purpose of such discussions.

  21. The problem I have with critiques of masculinity is that it seems that I am just trading one straitjacket (society’s conditioning) for another (your new version of masculinity).

    That is a reason why I never trust feminists who say that masculinity needs to be re-defined, or is toxic.

    To paraphrase the Who: “see the new box; same as the old box.”

    Maybe this is your point though: I don’t give a flying fudgestick what society says I need to do to be a man. Whether I have been conditioned or not, I don’t necessarily mind. Being the uber-masculine male that I am, I am comfortable enough with my femininity to tell them to buzz off, if they have a problem with it.

    The same goes for the feminists who say there is something wrong with being masculine.


    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      Jut, ha ha. i like you being you. rock on. And, i think it’s interesting how you see trading one box for another here. i don’t see that.

      when I take off the shackles my culture has put me in, sure you could argue there’s just a bigger set of shackles that awaits me, ie. a bigger box. sounds like you got my point despite your comment tho. be you, period.

      • JutGory says:

        Thanks for the response.

        Part of my comment may not have been directly in response to your point, but to those who want re-define masculinity to be more feminized. Teach boys to cry, to be in touch with their feeling, to play with dolls, etc. They just want to put boys in a different box, one that they approve of.

        I think that “traditional masculinity” is a fine thing to teach boys. There is a value to socialization (and, ultimately, can socialization be avoided). But, a part of that socialization is a reliance on self and an independent spirit. If those things are truly taken to heart, a masculine man has the self-confidence to reject the strictures of the socialization and be the person he is, without fear and definitely without apology.

    • @Jut … You said exactly what I was thinking. I totally agree.

  22. Wow! I’m so impressed with this article that I had to post a comment immediately before I had even finished reading it. (Sounds dumb, doesn’t it?)

    My own experience as I grew up as a baby boomer was that the stereotypical expectations that were imposed upon us boys were incredibly limited and confining.

    Of course, the first phony test of “masculinity” was whether or not a boy even had an interest in sports. If he just wasn’t interested in any sport, then he was a sissy and a fag. The mandatory “sports only” boys’ P.E., which definitely did NOT promote physical fitness, did much to encourage the bullying of nonathletic boys. As far as I’m concerned, the folks who brought “physical education” to the schools have much to be ashamed of (historically speaking). The promotion of school sports (which actually was the real purpose of the old P.E.) can be achieved without imposing them upon boys who have no interest in them.

    Boys who weren’t physically strong were shamed even before they reached their teens. The social expectations sometimes result in the internalization of self-hatred.

    A disclaimer: Aside from not ever being a sports fan, I’ve always been traditionally masculine. I took up bodybuilding when I was 57 years old. I’ve even hired personal trainers to work with me at a local health club. I’ve really enjoyed developing physical strength in my body for the first time in my life. As a matter of fact, I can even understand narcissism. My health club experience has actually been therapeutic.

    At the same time, I’m quite impressed with nonathletic teenage boys who overcome the negative influence of social stereotyping and succeed in excelling in a demanding academic pursuit such as one of the “hard” sciences. (Of course, American culture has long had an anti-intellectual component that denigrates scientists and other such men as “pencil-necked geeks.”)

    Yes, when I was a boy, I was taught by my peers that it was ALWAYS wrong to cry. Even crying over the misfortune of others was considered to be wrong. So, when I first saw the Diary of Anne Frank on TV and the ending caused me to shed a few tears, I actually felt ashamed of my reaction.

    Perhaps this attitude has changed. I once told one of my personal trainers (a big, muscular guy in his early twenties) about my reaction to watching this movie. He responded by saying, “Bill, everyone cries. That was something to cry about because it really happened.”

  23. Copyleft says:

    Letting others define you is seldom a good idea., but when boys are chlidren, what alternative exists? Chlidren need outside influences and guidance from somewhere.

    I agree that U.S. males are ‘conditioned to be men,’ but that’s only the half the equation. We’re conditioned to be men, but we’re not actually ALLOWED to be men. That’s the conflict. Society has the same old expectations of us, but then denies us the opportunity and tells us we’re wrong if we try to fulfill them–and bad if we refuse them, too.

    • Parents must be the bedrock of children’s influences and guidance. Sadly, parents today are either stretched too thin, or too thoroughly conditioned themselves, to counteract social and peer pressures on their sons.

      Note I say parents, not just dads. Mothers’ role ought to be to help liberalize and leaven the conditioning of boys, not just a. pass it on or b. totally squash it.

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      Copyleft, i question that we are not allowed to be men. in the one sense yes, true, the man-box is quite the machine that most folks buy, hook, line, and sinker. However, i’m not “allowed” to be who I am so I break the mold through “agency” as discussed in the post above. a truly agentic person doesn’t care who writes the script. they emerge into themselves and create their own place.

      • Mark Neil says:

        I think the point was that, when men don’t feel the need to break the mould, we are punished. Most behaviours typically seen as masculine have been criminalized and/or pathologized, especially in schools. boys aren’t allowed to be boys anyone, but are then shamed for not being boys. Is it really any wonder they grow up to be lost men or completely devoid of caring or empathy for anyone else?

      • John Anderson says:

        “a truly agentic person doesn’t care who writes the script. they emerge into themselves and create their own place.”

        Does that extend to slut shaming or female body image issues? I think a lot of times people believe that men should be able to overcome the obstacles before them so people think they are just whining while a similar expectation is not there for women.

  24. Kaviani says:

    @ Peter Houlihan
    It’s not that white men have it any worse or better on paper – black men are simply omitted altogether unless it’s about incarceration rates, HIV rates, or how single black WOMEN are faring (and why aren’t they marrying them?). That’s the serious irony here. White men have the (at least abstract) luxury of ivory tower reflection due to the simple fact that Western society was build for white men at the outset. White-normative remains the standard whether you actively see it or not. Latinos are an afterthought at best and Asian men are treated as docile invisibles.

    As a gay man of color, I’ve noticed the biggest issue with my heterobros is that what defines masculinity is largely negative. DON’T do (behavior x). Nothing about what you SHOULD do. So we have accumulating generations of shruggers who AREN’T doing anything but not doing anything. There! You’re a man! Now what? Likewise, there’s a general recalcitrance among males (not just straight ones) to have to do anything. Motivation is key, but the only motivators I’m seeing are sex and cash. Not exactly character building motivations.

    • There is a great reluctance, in a cash-driven society, to let anything get in the way of money as prime motivator. Anything else threatens to hurt the bottom line.

      Add to this the remnant of a strong calvinist heritage, where having money meant you deserved it in god’s eyes, and you get a conflation of material success with moral character. Money IS morality, at least the practical part of morality. That’s what has to change.

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      Agreed Kaviani. boom!

    • “You’re a man! Now what? Likewise, there’s a general recalcitrance among males (not just straight ones) to have to do anything. Motivation is key, but the only motivators I’m seeing are sex and cash. Not exactly character building motivations.”
      Well said!

    • Mark Neil says:

      “black men are simply omitted altogether unless it’s about incarceration rates, HIV rates, or how single black WOMEN are faring (and why aren’t they marrying them?).”

      Omitted from what? MSM articles? I won’t deny that. Feminist discussions? can’t speak for that, but wouldn’t be surprised. From MRM discussion? I would VERY much have to disagree with that, given the dreadful state of the black american family (Or more specifically, lack thereof) is pointed to as a cause for great concern within the MRM, both as an issue that needs to be addressed, and as a prediction of where the rest of society is heading. And family and criminalization/law/justice (already acknowledged) are at the heart of most MR concerns.

  25. Peter Houlihan says:

    Great article, just one tiny gripe::

    “In recent years there has been more and more articles on the state of white, heterosexual men and boys.”

    I think it’s possible that deconstructing gender represents more of a challenge to heterosexual men. Gay men tend to be forced to do so by the nature of their relationships, whereas straight men and women have less compelling reasons to break the mold. But white men? I haven’t seen *any* articles arguing that white men have it worse than black men when it comes to gender. If anything that kind of description is thrown up as a strawman by the opposition whenever the subject of men’s rights issues is discussed: if something only affects white men then it can safely be ignored, didn’t you know white men only experience privilege? Presenting the MRM as a movement consisting only of white privileged men is used as an excuse to disregard it’s message.

    It’s very important for me, as a masculist, to emphasise that these are issues which affect anyone who was raised as a man, or interacts with society as a man or even thinks of themselves as a man. Orientation is only partially relevant, colour is completely irrelevant.

    Other than that it was a great read though, thanks for writing 🙂

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      Good point Peter. Yes, gay men have to face themselves internally way before straight men do, esp privileged straight men. They can stay asleep their entire life.

      Do white men have it worse than black men? I wonder how much that matters. What matters is that we all are challenged, we all get boxed in and it’s up to us to see through it. those that are less in survival mode have more opportunity to see through the BS.

      • Peter Houlihan says:

        Perhaps I didn’t make that clear, my point was that it doesn’t matter, which is why I don’t agree with charactarisations of men’s issues articles as talking about white men. Like I said, I haven’t seen any articles specifically talking aout the state of white men and boys.

  26. To me, what defines a man is honor, the ability to grow, understanding and patience (they go hand-in-hand), and adaptive resilience, which is very important. Everything else is subjective.

    I think many men, not all, obviously, but a lot, try to achieve these characteristics, but are then subjected to so much rejection by the time they are 20 (society as a whole prefer the “asshole” generally, or in more urban areas, the feminist-conformed male stereotype), that they either give up and recede into their own private little worlds (video games, porn) or they actually become the “asshole” and continue the degradation of male identity.

    We, as men, need to learn to differentiate between merely being an ass (rebelling against conformity with crass behavior) and being a strong, self-conscience gentleman. The two have become far too muddled in their definitions.

    • Could you perhaps define honor? It’s a concept that is often perverted to the ends of the group or authority. This is crucial for males especially, because manliness traditionally depends on the approval of groups and authorities.

      • Honor isn’t King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table if that is what you mean. I also do not need a group to tell me what being honorable is. I define honor as a personal journey of a man to find his self-worth. I define honor as being truthful in the face of overwhelming desire to lie (perhaps to save your skin). Honor for me is about recognizing fairness and justice in our social interactions even with our most hated enemies. Honor is never sacrificing our integrity and our beliefs no matter what. Honor is not doing anything that may harm another person whether or emotionally or physically and to recognize when we do and make amends quickly and humbly.

        Men today, I think, are changeable, cowardice sheep the majority of the time, more concerned with ignorantly following those around them merely to remain… relevant and… ‘liked’.

        • Ahmed, I like your view of honor. It is…honorable. Thanks.

        • Jayson Gaddis says:

          Ahmed, I like that you said I don’t need a group to tell me what being honorable is. YES! sounds like you value that as an adult man. but that doesn’t mean others should. otherwise, we are back to what you said, sheep, following the masses to get liked. good call there. men need to be humans in their value system that they discover inside out, rather than let anyone tell them who to be or how to be.

          • Thanks Jayson. And I agree.. we all try too hard to make sure we fit in.

            I feel more hopeful for the state of man knowing that there are people out there willing to actually discuss the topic. Thanks of the article.

  27. “They allow someone else to define who they are and how they should be…”

    Brilliantly said!

    I think when men/boys try to act like some imagined hero from the movies or cultural myths, it’s like putting on a straightjacket…you get stuck in that 2 dimensionality and can’t break out of it….I’ve seen men put on the jacket because they feel that’s what society expects of them and then they try to twist out of it…get really frustrated of all the impossible expectations they think they need to live up to….I don’t think the real Gary Cooper was exactly like the Gary Cooper on the screen….

    • Mark Neil says:

      My concern and problem with where all this is going is with the constant tendency to suggest we must “redefine masculinity”… but doesn’t that just change the colour of the straight-jacket? Especially given it is not generally men who want that definition changed, or at least what the suggested changes are are not what men want). How is letting feminists define masculinity any better than what we have now (given the tendency for self interest rather than men’s interests in many of the feminist definitions)?

      • Mark Neil says:

        For clarification, this is not aimed at you specifically, your post was just a good jumping off point

      • John Anderson says:

        “My concern and problem with where all this is going is with the constant tendency to suggest we must “redefine masculinity”… but doesn’t that just change the colour of the straight-jacket?”

        I don’t think Leia was saying that as you acknowledged. I just wanted to clarify that this isn’t aimed at that comment also.

        I do agree with you. I think men should have the option to drop out of school or “life”, play video games, watch porn, and eschew a relationship with women if that is what they want. I do have a problem with society failing boys. I believe that the educational system is failing boys. We also don’t have the same infrastructure available to ensure boys succeed as we do for girls. There was an article on GMP concerning boys and poetry.

        If boys are having difficulty competing with girls in poetry, why can’t we have competitions restricted to boys only as well as coed and if you want to girls only competitions like we do in sports? The failure of society to support men’s choices (not just being in opposition to) helps keep men in the box. Men also should have the option of electing for traditional masculinity of they choose.

  28. The main conditioning influences for boys are: other boys/men, their dads, TV/internet, movies, politics, and sports.
    Maybe its my experience but to me women should be listed here as well. As I say in my experience when it came to going against the conditions (or as I like to call it “a script”) women were the worst defenders of the script.

    Its weird. The whole bit about a man having to stand his ground with his choices even if they go against this conditioning actually comes in handy facing other guys Usually it can end with just letting them that you’re grown and will do as you wish.

    But women on the other hand? Goodness!

    However the overall scope is very true. We got work to do.

    • I’ve actually noticed the exact opposite. Men shaming men more often and women shaming women more often. I’ve also noticed that a lot of time people assume that it’s the other way around, because they assume that the only reason a man would shame another man about his behaviour is all about getting a date/sex, and same thing with women shaming women.

      Mind, I’m not saying your experience isn’t totally valid, goodness. I’m just saying I’ve observed people within a gender shaming people who are also within that gender for not performing their gender correctly.

      • HeatherN:

        I’ve actually noticed the exact opposite. Men shaming men more often and women shaming women more often.

        I’m just saying I’ve observed people within a gender shaming people who are also within that gender for not performing their gender correctly.

        It seems like Danny does acknowledge that shaming occurs within genders when he said that he’d thinks women should be listed as well among the main conditioning influences for boys. I guess you really were commenting Danny’s personal observation that for him women have been the one’s most likely to defend the script when he broke it (by I guess admonishing him in some way or other). You have a different experience where you see more intra-gender shaming. Neither is wrong and I think that any bickering about which one is more common is pointless as long as neither is negligible and I think that Danny is correct in that women should be included in that list. Women’s view of what constitutes men and manhood (as expressed by voice, actions, teachings, parenting etc.) cannot be said to not have a significant impact on boys. What young boys believe that girls want/expect in a boyfriend do have an impact on the boys behavior and notions of what a man should be. Noone can tell me that the boys perception about what women want from them and want them to be are not influenced by girls and women to a degree worth addressing.

        A lot of boys have their mother’s as primary care-takers and I think that in particular excluding mothers from this list of main influences downplay, nay, just about erases any influences a mother has on any sons. No-one in their right mind can argue that a mother’s conception of what manhood is has little or no influence on her sons. I’ve heard mother’s slut-shame other women (while gossiping with female friends) while their young son (3-4 year) can overhear it. No-one can tell me that a pattern of this has no or even just a negligible impact on that sons view of women when he grows up.

        Now, Heather, from here on this is a bit of a rant caused by seeing this type of exclusion of women in many contexts and is not in that sense addressed at anything particular in your comment. I just want to make that clear so you don’t feel attacked.

        The exclusion of women from this list raise my hackles a bit because it’s both a double standard (like those saying that women are forced to slut-shame other women to protect themselves from men) and because that exclusion will slow down any change – we need to all be aboard to change this. I do my best to police my shit and the expectation that women shouldn’t be policing theirs because it doesn’t matters offends me on two levels; the implied assumptions that women are powerless and agencyless and the fact that it will impede the rate of change we need.

        In short, bickering about what the main influence is and by extension only address one will only ensure slow or no progress at all.

        • OMG, epic quote-fail! Sorry. 🙁
          The end-quote should be after the first paragraph before the words: “It seems like Danny”…

        • Girls internalize the same dysfunctional standards about manliness that men do, so it makes sense that the pressure would come from all sides. I think a lot of women plain don’t know how to react to a man who doesn’t conform to typical masculine gender roles. I think there is also confusion in our culture over the idea that a man who is not “acting like a man” is, by default, passive, weak, unreliable, and not a good relationship partner. I think that is a reason why many women are attracted to men who appear forceful, uncompromising, confident, and unemotional (leading to the common complaint “women like jerks”). I think many heterosexual women think in the back of their minds, “I don’t want to date a another girl, I want to date a MAN” and this leads to them to reject guys who are more sensitive and emotional. Which is unfortunate because then women also complain that their boyfriends/husbands are uncaring and won’t talk about their feelings. Our culture is very messed up.

          • Sarah, I agree with what you are saying. But between the two examples you presented, in our culture, there can be extremes in men that are unemotional and controlling and extremes in men that are emotional and needy. It’s about balance at the end of the day.

            It would be great to support men to express more stereotypically feminine traits as long as those feminine traits don’t run amock. Which sometimes they do when you have one type of man being rude and uncaring toward his partner and the other type is at home lost and escaping reality through porn and video games. These two men both got their issues just on opposite ends of the spectrum.

            So I totally support challenging current standards place on men. I want men to have the freedom to express more of themselves. But I don’t want men to loose themselves in the process either. There are still many grand masculine traits that i want to support in them too. It’s the balance between these two that we simply lost control of.

            • John Anderson says:

              That’s just putting men into a box again. It might be a bigger box, I’m not sure. You add more middle, but remove the extremes. Can’t we just let men out of the box and let them choose for themselves what they want to be?

          • Thank you Tamen and Sarah.

            I’m also one to argue that -regardless of “frequency”- a (heterosexual) man being shamed by women has a FAR bigger impact. Men shaming men can still be shrugged off with “outdated”, when the shaming comes from women it comes across as “value / change preaching doesn’t match reality”.

            It’s also important that mostly, the impact of women is (deliberately ?) ignored / silenced. Besides that this sounds very disempowering / unresponsible, it’s also untrue, so change / improvement can’t happen. I fear this stems from the (wrong) idea it would “hurt” feminism, while I actually think it would help.

      • Another vote for what Danny said; in my experience, I have been shamed by both men and women, but being shamed by women has hurt much more and has been more likely to make me try to attempt to change.

      • Mark Neil says:

        I think what you missed was in the response Danny gets from standing up against that shaming. Both boys and girls/men and women shame each other into conforming, but, as a guy, shaming from men is both less impactful, and more easily silenced with a stern look/word. If I’m doing something outside the norm, and another guy starts making fun of me, I can easily address that and it is over. But when I stand up to a woman, woh boy, will I get an earful for daring to speak to her that way (regardless of what “that way” actually is), because I should be listening to her “advice”. You didn’t address this in your response, the reaction to standing up for oneself.

      • John Anderson says:

        @ HeatherN

        My experience was probably a little different. I’ve been shamed by both genders, but shaming from women included engaging in masculine behaviors like watching porn. Men and boys never shamed me for having sexual urges just for not having them, but women have called me gay or questioned my masculinity when I’ve turned down their advances. In my experience women have shamed me for both supporting and rejecting my gender stereotype while men have only shamed me for rejecting it.

        • That’s basically what I’m talking about. In my experience men have been much more accepting of rejecting the old male gender role while women have not.

    • Jayson Gaddis says:

      Excellent point Danny. By in large, moms are indeed the ones raising boys out there. Thanks for the obvious reminder. And, that has it’s own cost/benefit to it, right?

    • trey1963 says:

      As a boy who was shamed because I was sensitive through Jr HS…..Ribbing from the guys was one thing, being castigated by the girls for meeting the “standard” was much more damaging. And Jr HS is where the girls start perfecting their Relational aggression tactics..

      Like many others I decided in HS to become the bad boy / thug. Very liberating to go from the nerd boy to the teen even the neighbors feared……and the girls responded. Many girls / women enjoy having their own human pit-bull ….. even in college where I dropped many of the trapping of the BB….women loved the “safety” of the reformed thug…

      • John Anderson says:

        I was transformed in HS too, but I never became the thug. In HS I discovered taekwondo and weightlifting. I found out that it wasn’t sports that I was no good at, just team sports. I got respect among the boys because I could kick their asses. I even got picked for some teams because they wanted an “enforcer” . Some of the girls might have been attracted to the power (boys power is usually limited to his capacity to do physical violence, but men’s power includes financial and their job), others by the physique and others by the added confidence.

        When I was recruited by the local gang, it was because of the violence. They really wanted my older brother and some of my friends and thought I was the easiest guy to flip. That was smart. I’m half Asian, but look white so I’m not completely accepted in either group. My neighborhood was white, but they knew I was Asian. My brother, who looked Asian, could escape to the north side and get accepted, I couldn’t. They figured once they had me the other guys would join. They couldn’t recruit me the conventional way with threats. They sent some ladies to recruit me. I never joined.

        There was a time at a party where the women were ignoring me. My butterfly knife fell out of my pocket and a guy asked me about it as I was putting it back. I started flicking it around and then every lady was talking to me. I know what you’re saying..


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