All the way back in 1973, George Gilder published a book entitled Men and Marriage. He expanded and republished it in 1986. In his book, Gilder argued that our culture was marginalizing men, to its great peril. He articulated the critical role that marriage has in helping men focus their sexual energies in a creative and beneficial way. Women have their nurturing role rather clearly defined in the very design of their bodies. But men’s role in the raising of children and in society in general is less evident. The traditional family gave men a rather clearly defined role that had dignity and supplied them with the feeling that they were needed, indeed essential.
But, as Gilder showed even then, much of that has been stripped away. Feminism and the sexual revolution are sources of the erosion, along with other deleterious social effects. And the erosion of esteem for the roles of husband, father, provider, and leader is hurting not only men, but children, women, and our culture as a whole. For when the sexual energies of men are not channeled toward creative ends, they tend toward destructive ones.
Gilder’s description of the problem is in full blossom today, and more and more social commentators now describe men as increasingly a combination of angry, disengaged, dysfunctional, cynical, fearful, and legally and socially constrained. The wider culture, heavily influenced by feminism, often depicts men as sexual predators, drinkers, imbeciles, buffoons, and as stupid and immature. And after consuming a steady diet of these portraits, some men do indeed display some of these traits.
Over the years, we have discussed many aspects of the problem on this blog. Most significantly, we have focused on the apparent lack of connection that young people today have with the ideas of courtship, dating, and marriage. Marriage is delayed any many are never getting there at all. The com-box lights up whenever I write on these matters. Many commenters are bewildered, like me, but others are young people who are quite angry and cynical about one another. Our culture has really poisoned the atmosphere between the sexes. Promiscuity makes even simple flirtation fraught with a sense of danger, and merely unwanted attention becomes the stuff of sexual harassment. The men who write in are the bitterest of all. One man wrote, “Sure women are beautiful but that is where the appeal stops. The relationship is nothing but trouble and power struggle, and I risk losing everything, everything!”
Welcome to the world of post-radical-feminism and the post-sexual-revolution. It is a toxic world for romance, let alone the deeper values of marital and family love. It is toxic for men and for women, but most tragically it is toxic for children, who are often raised in a culture of deepening confusion and conflict in its most necessary component: the traditional family.
There is an article on Brietbart that articulates the problem for men and their anger. It is a lengthy article, and I should warn you that if you click on the link to the article in the previous sentence you will read some rather “raw” language. But frankly, it IS raw out there today for increasing numbers of young people, who have inherited the whirlwind of the sexual revolution and radical feminism. It is a lonely world, a world in which hostility and widespread promiscuity have destroyed innocence and poisoned relationships between young men and women that used to be natural and oriented toward marriage and family.
Here are some excerpts of the article, which I present here as a kind of log of the cultural decline we are experiencing. The quotes from the article are in bold italics, while my comments are in plain red text.
Social commentators, journalists, academics, scientists and young men themselves have all spotted the trend: among men of about 15 to 30 years old, ever-increasing numbers are checking out of society altogether, giving up on women, sex and relationships and retreating into pornography, sexual fetishes, chemical addictions, video games and, in some cases, boorish [male] culture, all of which insulate them from a hostile, debilitating social environment created, some argue, by the modern feminist movement.
Of course in retreating from an ugly world, they dwell in an even uglier one. But to them it seems to feel less threatening, more predictable, and less complicated. Gilder discusses the observation that if men cannot be encouraged to commit to the creative and constructive relationship of the family, they will (as sociological studies show) tend toward destructive and damaging relationships that range from violent ones (gangs) to less harmful but disengaged ones like gaming, or drinking.
You can hardly blame them. Cruelly derided as man-children and crybabies for objecting to absurdly unfair conditions in college, bars, clubs and beyond, men are damned if they do and damned if they don’t: ridiculed as basement-dwellers for avoiding aggressive, demanding women with unrealistic expectations, or called rapists and misogynists merely for expressing sexual interest.
The new rules men are expected to live by are never clearly explained, … leaving [males] clueless and neurotic about interacting with [women]. “That might sound like a good thing because it encourages men to take the unromantic but practical approach of asking women how they should behave, but it causes a lot of them to just opt out of the game and retreat to the sanctuary of their groups … where being rude to women gets you approval, and you can pretty much entirely avoid one-on-one socialising with the opposite sex.”
Here, too, this “retreat” cannot receive approval, but some understanding of the disgust and fear that underlies it may be important. Generally, men used to seek the company of women and seek a wife. Now they do not. What has changed? While some aspects of the women’s movement were necessary (better access to jobs, fairer compensation, etc.) there now seems to have been an overcorrection, such that women now outrank men in terms of many indicators of social success such as graduation levels, income, and legal access to benefits and rights. Many men find the legal and legislative world hostile to them and discover that it is politically incorrect to say that the “corrections” are now harming men.
Women have been sending men mixed messages for the last few decades, leaving boys utterly confused about what they are supposed to represent to women, which perhaps explains the strong language some of them use when describing their situation. As the role of breadwinner has been taken away from them by women who earn more and do better in school, men are left to intuit what to do, trying to find a virtuous mean between what women say they want and what they actually pursue, which can be very different things.
Men say the gap between what women say and what they do has never been wider. Men are constantly told they should be delicate, sensitive fellow travelers on the feminist path. But the same women who say they want a nice, unthreatening boyfriend go home and swoon over simple-minded, giant-chested, testosterone-saturated hunks in Game of Thrones. Men know this, and, for some, this giant inconsistency makes the whole game look too much like hard work. Why bother trying to work out what a woman wants, when you can play sports, [self-gratify through masturbation] or just play video games from the comfort of your bedroom?
Yes, men speak to me all the time about such mixed messages, both here at the blog and in ministerial settings. Women make it very difficult to understand what they want. Part of the problem is that women are not monolithic. Different women want different things. But even with an individual woman, many men struggle to understand. Women have always had, in every culture and time, a “lot of moving parts.” But the frenetic and ephemeral quality of modern culture puts the inconsistencies on steroids and leaves a lot of men bewildered and angry.
Again, the retreat of men into lesser or native activities cannot be approved. But in merely reporting it here I do not do so. It is important to examine the trend and to try to understand it, since even many churchgoing Catholic males are manifesting these attitudes and behaviors.
The article goes on to discuss what drives women to exhibit the behaviors that men are fleeing. Here, too, you do not need to accept all that is said here or read it in terms of assigning blame. But women have widely changed their behavior, and once again it is good to ask why.
Women today are schooled in victimhood, taught to be aggressively vulnerable and convinced that the slightest of perceived infractions, approaches or clumsy misunderstandings represents “assault,” “abuse” or “harassment.” That may work in the safe confines of campus, where men can have their academic careers destroyed on the mere say-so of a female student … academics such as Camille Paglia have been warning for years that “rape drives” on campus put women at greater risk, if anything … damage [is] being done to them by the onset of absurd, unworkable, prudish and downright misandrist laws such as California’s “Yes Means Yes” legislation—and by third-wave feminism … which is currently enjoying a hysterical last gasp before women themselves reject it.
Another root of the problem is the school system, both public and private. We have discussed on this blog many times before that normal boyhood has been demonized and treated as something to be medicated away.
In schools today across Britain and America, boys are relentlessly pathologised, as academics were warning as long ago as 2001. Boyishness and boisterousness have come to be seen as “problematic,” with girls’ behavior a gold standard against which these defective boys are measured. When they are found wanting, the solution is often drugs. One in seven American boys will be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at some point in their school career. Millions will be prescribed a powerful mood stabilizer such as Ritalin, for the crime of being born male. The side effects of these drugs can be hideous and include sudden death.
Meanwhile, boys are falling behind girls academically, perhaps because relentless and well-funded focus has been placed on girls’ achievement in the past few decades and little to none on the boys who are now achieving lower grades, fewer honors, fewer degrees and less marketable information economy skills. Boys’ literacy, in particular, is in crisis throughout the West. We’ve been obsessing so much over girls, we haven’t noticed that boys have slipped into serious academic trouble.
OK, so even if there was a need to correct and focus a bit more on girls, it looks as if we’ve overcorrected. This may not be politically correct, but it certainly looks as though the statistics indicate this.
Jack Donovan, a writer based in Portland who has written several books on men and masculinity, each of which has become a cult hit, says the phenomenon is already endemic among the adult population. “I see a lot of young men who would otherwise be dating and marrying giving up on women,” he explains, “Or giving up on the idea of having a wife and family. This includes both the kind of men who would traditionally be a little awkward with women, and the kind of men who aren’t awkward with women at all. “They’ve done a cost-benefit analysis and realized it is a bad deal. They know that if they invest in a marriage and children, a woman can take all of that away from them on a whim. He goes on: “Almost all young men have attended mandatory sexual harassment and anti-rape seminars, and they know that they can be fired, expelled, or arrested based more or less on the word of any woman. They know they are basically guilty until proven innocent in most situations.”
This is pretty clear and it is well aligned with what I am hearing, increasingly, from men.
Well, this is a tough topic to be sure. Not exactly the best topic for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception! However, it does illustrate well what happens when a culture loses its relative innocence, and sex becomes a toxic, cynical, fearful pursuit, one that is no longer tied to marriage and family. (Mondays are also my usual day for doing “culture check” articles.)
It will be admitted that not all young people are lost in this cycle, but increasing numbers are. A good start toward addressing the problem is raising awareness of and naming the demons. There was a time, not so long ago, when we got the courtship and marriage thing right … or at least largely right. People mostly got married and stay married. Our families weren’t perfect, but they functioned. Our culture wasn’t perfect—far from it—but its basic units and foundations were operative.
Have mercy on us Lord, and on the whole world.