Saturday, August 11, 2012

It's Raining Boys

To start, I’d like to share with you a scenario that Kay S. Hymowitz describes in her book “Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men Into Boys.”

Scenario 2: The Darwinian Playboy. These are the guys who plan to live alone and have lots of sex with a lot of women. Though they might hang around for a while, they will never, ever be that into you. They lard their deep mistrust of women with convenient bits of evolutionary psychology. Some saw fathers, uncles, brothers, or friends chewed up and spit out by ex-wives who had cheated on them but still got the house, the kids, and half of their ex’s income. Others probably never recovered from their own experiences of betrayal; others are geeks who, having spent much of their twenties invisible to women, are also in a vengeful frame of mind. Some of them are devoted followers of Roissy, a philosophically sophisticated blogger who uses his multitudinous sexual encounters to analyze the amoral nature of female desire; think Hefner via Dostoyevsky. “Women, no matter how determinedly enlightened and independent, are turned on by smart, dominant males—not bullies, not necessarily billionaires, mind you, but guys who know how to communicate the right mix of self-confidence, aloofness, and charisma.” Love and marriage, concludes Roissy, are just “pretty lies.” “Marriage is no escape from the sexual market and the possibility that you may be outbid by a competitor with higher value,” he writes. “No matter how much you love your kids, if a divorce happens (50% chance, 70+% chance the wife initiates it) you are going to be paying child support for the new lingerie your ex-wife buys to sexually please her blogger lover. Life is a parade of worry and high wire risk, of love and loneliness, and no socially manufactured arrangement exists to insulate you from your dreaded fears. To imagine otherwise is beta.”

Safe predictor: By his mid-forties, the playboy is doing a comb-over for his balding head and wearing leather jackets to cover-up his gut when he goes to bars to pick up women. Despite the fact that he tends to blather on about great bands of the 1990s, there are a few who are willing to sleep with him. Eventually, he’ll find himself seeing one of them and deciding to move in with her. He becomes a stepdad to her kids and begins to dislike her ex as much as she does. He’s not especially happy with his arrangement—he remembers the good old days when women appeared to him like an enormous, all-you-can-eat buffet—but what’s the alternative?

This scenario, my friends, makes me want to cry and scream at the same time. This speaks of a man who has given up—he had given up before he even finished college. Why? What’s driven this route of apathy among a large population of men these days?

For the record (I feel like I say this phrase a lot), I do not believe that this scenario speaks of all men. I know a large number of men who completely do not fit this persona—and I am so glad to have them in my life. But we can’t ignore the fact that there is a growing number of what Hymowitz calls the “child-man.”

Here are a couple definitions and explanations of the child-man from Hymowitz. “The child-man prides himself on his lack of pretense, his slovenly guyness, not to mention his fascination with bodily fluids and noises.” “Men tried to cool down the masculine persona through youthful playfulness and coy hesitancy. ‘Me?’ they seemed to say. ‘I’m not a man. I’m a guy.’” And speaking of the prevalence of child-men in tv and movies, “With a talent for crude physical comedy, gleeful juvenility, and self-humiliation, these guys are the child-man counterpart to smoother, more conventional romantic leads, such as George Clooney and Brad Pitt, beloved by women and Esquire editors.” “Crudity is at the heart of the child-man persona—the bad-boy tone epitomizes his refusal to grow-up.”

The second and third wave feminist movements are, in large part, to blame. The biggest difference between men these days and men in previous generations? “Still one thing above all separates his forefathers from him: they knew they were going to be tied to, and responsible for, a family. He does not.” “Adult manhood has almost universally been equated with marriage and fatherhood.” There was a script, expected norms for dating and marriage between the sexes. In the over-eager attempt to equalize women with men, feminism unintentionally demoralized and destabilized the role of a man in society, in family, and in relationships. And although feminists say they don’t want the stereotypical “protector, provider”, statistics and research say otherwise.

Men are left confused—they’ve grown up with working mothers, and a society that demonized masculinity while forcing feminine ideals and qualities on everyone. At the same time, “nice guys finish last”—women seem to go for the jerks. Some men feel they have no value to a woman—if his role was protector, provider and a woman can take care of herself, then why does she need him? There’s nothing left to protect and no one left to provide for. Why should he push himself to be better, to work harder? For what? For whom?  So with all this confusion of what it is to be a man, many men have simply given up trying to figure it out. There is far too much temptation to continue on in adolescence—to accept the “child-man” stereotype portrayed in Adam Sandler films.

 Doesn’t this all seem so depressing? It certainly does to me—I do not envy men. But I do appreciate the ones I know who have not given up. Who have not given in to the temptation of male arrested development.

Men are naturally competitive, more aggressive than women, value strength, courage, and resolve. None of these attributes should be demonized, and I’d encourage all the men I know to embrace those qualities. Aggressiveness is not evil in and of itself but should just be tempered so it’s not demoralizing to others. Women need the men in their life to embody these qualities—we respect them. And we love what we respect.

We women love men’s strength and courage—even in its simplest forms. I can’t tell you how many times friends have lamented not having a guy around because there’s a freaky huge spider that needs killing, a stubborn jar lid that won’t come off, too heavy furniture to move, an electronic device that needs figuring out. Sure, these are silly things. But they are real nonetheless. We love seeing strength and courage in action.

So for the love of all women, men please embrace your masculinity. I would love to change to the tune of “It’s Raining Men.”

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