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Further Reading

COLUMN

Game Over, Man?

The Big Guy’s Guide to Guydom

by Les Sillars


Dear Big Guy,

Dude!!!! We are so totally BUSTED!! It started last night. I was chillin’ with the guys, you know, watching some porn, playing a little poker, drinking some brews.

And then Ms. Wet Blanket comes in and says we should turn it down a little. Well, like any Guy, I told her where to go, and Mom totally freaked out on us. We were in her freakin’ house, in her freakin’ living room, she shouldn’t have to put up with this at 3 a.m., what was that on her big-screen TV, blah-blah-blah.

And THEN, out of the blue, she started accusing me of hooking up all the time, and said I was cheating my way through college by buying term papers online. My weekend drinking binges run from Wednesday to Monday, she said, and I’ve lost touch with reality because I spend half my time playing video games and the other half watching online porn. She said that time in my freshman year when I got those bruises in private places was probably some stupid “homosocial” (whatever that means) fraternity hazing ritual. And I’m saying to myself, “How does she know all this? Has she been spying on me?”

And then, when I got up the next morning (OK, late afternoon), I found this book lying around—Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men, by this SUNY Stony Book prof named Michael Kimmel. I started flipping through it, and Dude! He totally has us pegged!!

He talks about how we Guys have some ambition, but so many of us (there are 22 million US males aged 16 to 26) never seem to get anywhere. We just hang around college until we start bouncing between stupid, boring jobs, because our sense of entitlement makes the idea of starting at the bottom and working our way up seem so, well, pathetic. Meanwhile, we live at home so we can barhop our pathetic incomes away while we try to pick up co-eds at campus watering holes.

He said we’re stuck in a prolonged period of adolescence—“incomplete and insecure, terrified that they will fail as grown-ups, that they will be exposed as fraudulent men”—and that’s why we create the “Guy Code”—you know: don’t be gay, take it like a man, hook up when you get the chance, bro’s before ho’s.

And then he said the reason why we don’t grow up is that we “don’t have to. Why should they?” he says, talking about us. “As long as they continue to buy into the idea that marriage is the death of fun—an idea that is reinforced by the media, their peers, and even adult men at every turn—they will continue to prefer casual sex to long-term commitment. And as long as there is a steady stream of young women who will ‘hook up’ in the hopes it might lead to something more, the burden for defining the relationship and securing commitment falls entirely on the women.”

Dude, what are we going to do? What if our “Friends With Benefits” read this? They’ll know they’ve been had. They’re going to start wanting “commitment,” or at least a little affection, in exchange for sex! They might even start nagging at us to get married! And our parents—what if they start turning us out of the house or stop paying off our credit cards for us? Dude, it’s all over. We’re losing our way of life.

—Hopeless and Hung-over in Houston


Dear Hopeless,

Dude! Pull. Yourself. Together.

I read Guyland when it came out last summer, and believe me, we’re in no danger of anything from the likes of Michael Kimmel. I mean, Dude, an admiring reader once called him “Gloria Steinem with a pee pee,” and he posted it on his own website.

That’s why we’re safe: He sees us through the eyes of contemporary feminists. He describes us pretty accurately (he says he talked to hundreds of us), but there’s no way anything will change because of people like him.

First off—your porn is safe. After reviewing all the evidence of extensive porn use among young males, he concludes that the relationship between our watching women being raped and humiliated and our “actual day to day relationships with women . . . may well be ‘Nothing.’” The problem with porn is political, he says, because it “stokes guys’ anger at women for withholding what they, the guys, believe is their due: sex.”

Fortunately, he made no mention of the fact that a third of college men now report erectile dysfunction, mostly (some suspect) because of porn dependence, nor does he mention the men addicted to porn (some estimate up to 20 million Americans), who mostly picked up the habit as youths. Kimmel doesn’t want to be moralistic or conservative or seem at all critical of the few women who find porn so empowering, a means of taking control back from men, ya know, so he can’t really tell us to stop.

And I got such a kick out of his advice to our FWBs. He can’t possibly tell them just to stop having casual sex with us because it’s morally wrong, or ’cause it stains their virtue, undermines their ability to have a faithful marriage, increases their risk of getting STDs, and wreaks havoc with their emotional lives. That would be oppressive.

Instead, he writes that some women want casual sex, too (“experimenting,” he calls it). For Kimmel, it’s all about power—mainly how unfair it is that guys gain status from sleeping around while women lose status from the same behavior. He seems not to approve of the hook-up culture, but in the end, fortunately for us, he can’t tell women to just say no to it. “The contemporary culture of courtship is not their parents’ culture of courtship, but it is no less a ‘culture’ and no less legitimate because of that.” Hooking up is legitimate! Who knew?

The irony, of course, is that people like Kimmel helped turn boys into Guys in the first place. Feminists and post-modernists have been saying for decades that all these ideas of “maleness” and “femaleness,” of sexuality, fidelity and the family unit, are just ruses developed by a patriarchal society to perpetuate the subjugation of women. All standards of morality are “socially constructed”—that is, they have no objective basis in anything—so we should make up our own morality. Well, that’s what we’re doing, isn’t it?

They’ve taught us that gender is just a social construct (therefore, women are entitled to corrupt their character just as thoroughly as Guys do, and with no social penalty), and that relationships are, at their core, primarily about power (instead of love or grace or forgiveness). When we combine those notions with Nietzsche’s “will to power”—the idea that we can move “beyond good and evil” by following our natural desire to control our environment and our choices—and assert that we’re entitled to what we want, we’re only applying the ideas they’ve been teaching us in college.

Think about why we spend huge chunks of our lives immersed in video games—we can control what happens to us there. As Leonard Sax said in Boys Adrift, Guys motivated by a will to power have their own way of valuing traits and characteristics. Try to take our video games away, tell us they will keep us from getting good jobs, tell us to grow up and get a life, and we will tell you (HT to Nietzsche): “This is who I am, this is what I want. Get lost.”

Some of Kimmel’s advice for undermining Guyland sounds almost like it would be effective (he says that parents need to take on a stronger role in guiding and directing their sons, for example, and that boys need responsible adult mentors). But ultimately, Kimmel thinks the important thing is for society (meaning, of course, nobody) to expose and thereby break down the “Guy culture” so that we’ll be able to develop “resilience” and “our own moral compass” and “internal voices of resistance and individuality.”

Well, Dude, I’ve already got a “moral compass,” and it’s telling me that I’m cool with whatever I want to do. What can Kimmel say to that? That I should grow up and become like him because his moral compass is superior to mine? As if.

Chill, Dude.

—The Big Guy


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