Do Men Need to Man Up?

April 2nd, 2012 by Pelle Billing

The following is a guest blog that I recently wrote for Owen Marcus’ blog.

The statistics are becoming increasingly well known. Men earn a lower percentage of college degrees than women. Male unemployment is reaching alarming heights. Fewer and fewer men get married (in the US and the UK alike); seemingly more interested in video games, beer and hanging out with friends.

What is going on here? Are men prolonging their boyhood indefinitely? Do men need to man up?

There is more complexity to these questions than meets the eye. Summing up the solution as men needing to “man up” bypasses this complexity and implies that there is no knowledge to be gained here – only a return to the manhood ideal of the 1950s. But going down that route will not lead to a transformation of men, nor a transformation of society.

We all make our own choices, and we all have to live with our own choices. Few people would disagree with such a statement. However, no decision is made in a vacuum. Depending on the context some choices may seem overwhelmingly easy to make, while others require jumping through hoops and going against the flow.

So what is the context of young men making choices today? Why has the choice of ignoring manhood (and marriage) become so much more common? Understanding young men’s view of the society they find themselves in is vital, if we want to help more young men to actually enter a form of mature manhood.

I believe there are a number of factors that end up affecting the life choices of young men:

1) A lack of guidance from older men.

Male teachers are disappearing. Single mothers are increasing (PDF) in numbers – a process that may well escalate due to single women insemination. Fathers who live with their children still tend to work away from home and take primary responsibility for providing for the family. Where are boys to connect with older men? How can the wisdom, nurturing and yes – even firm guidance when needed – be passed on?

2) The taboo around discussing men’s unique abilities.

You’re allowed to call women more peaceful, more empathetic, more cooperative and less violent than men. However, it’s considered sexist to say that men are more goal oriented, more analytical and more interested in achieving greatness in the workplace. This double standard means that it’s hard to give young boys role models, or help them feel a sense of pride in their coming manhood.

3) Women’s sexual revolution

In the 1950s the guidelines for the sexes were easy. Men needed to find a job, women needed to be feminine and everyone was expected to keep sexual connections to a minimum before marriage. Then everything changed… The sexual revolution means that we now have a whole marketplace for dating, hooking up or finding a relationship.

Young men of today find themselves asking questions such as: Should I get married or stay in the sexual marketplace? Do I want to marry a woman who is 30+ years old and has had 30+ partners? Evolutionary speaking men have been programmed to bond with younger and (seemingly) not too experienced women. Today, these male thoughts are considered sexist (and not without reason), but it’s well nigh impossible to change ancient programming overnight.

Conclusion

Men need to feel that they are uniquely needed and uniquely qualified to be fathers, role models and long term romantic partners. They need to hear this message from older men, from society and from young women. Decades of feminism has meant that we stopped thinking about men’s needs and the development paths leading to a healthy male identity. The time has come to reverse that trend and show young men that without them society, culture and even our planet, has no future.

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22 Responses to “Do Men Need to Man Up?”

  1. Vladimir Says:

    First of, Pelle I must disagree with you on one part of the third point.

    Why is it sexist to have a preference towards a younger and less experienced woman? What makes it sexist to discriminate against a woman who had a lot of partners? We discriminate every day for far less. For example, if a person starting a random conversation with us, we make a call then and there and no one would judge us for it. But when we are to make a major investment of emotion, time, money and other forms of capital, that is sexist?

    You as a doctor know the STDs plaguing the world today. Then comes that awkward correlation we all know that more partners implies a greater chance of infidelity, and you have wrote a bit on fathering another man’s child.

    Finally, it’s a matter of good taste. I may find it distasteful that a woman will go(or in some case take) with someone the first night she met them. But that is my opinion. I’m not telling everyone to do it. I’m not telling anyone for that matter. But I cannot see myself having a relationship with that kind of a woman.

    The first two reasons I think this is not sexist is pure reasoning. The third one might be the evolutionarily programmed into me.

    Does that make me sexist?

  2. Vladimir Says:

    Now to get back to the main topic of the post, manning up.

    I would like to use myself as an example. I am a family oriented guy. Basically, my family will always take priority to anything else, and (put your deity’s name here) forbid someone endangers them.

    That said, when I’m in a relationship, I’m very devoted to that person. But even then, I knew my friends before I knew her. I will go out and meet with my friends. Of course, I would not neglect my girl either.

    When I’m single, I don’t have the need to devote myself to someone who has not yet deserved it. And in my free time when I’m not seeing my friends, going out, reading, trying to learn how to play a guitar(not going well I’m afraid)… I do like to play video games. I do like to go kart racing.

    And I made a conscious decision. If I cannot find a woman that I can bond with and who meets my criteria, I will not marry, nor father a child. And I will not donate my sperm, nor anything similar. Just as they consider themselves valuable, so do I. I believe that my progeny entitles me to chose the way they will be raised. My choice would be a stable, loving family with both biological parents there. I refuse to “play the game” otherwise.

    And this choice I made is knowing that I will be able to stay in the marketplace for a long, long time. Well beyond 30s. And for me, that is also ok. I would prefer to find “the one” to have a family with, but this will also do.

    And calling me a man-child, or asking me to man up? (Yao Ming internet meme face here) **** please. The women and the feminist movement(some, but not all) called for the abolishing of the nuclear family and dispensing with the “patriarchal system”. I’m being man enough to let them have what they want, without imposing my own system.

    And it’s equality in the sense that I’m allowed to be whatever I wish to be without the society shaming me into it.

    Yes, this is a very strong statement, but I’ve had a very annoying, yet ignorant militant feminist pester me today. This is written with a bit of unblown steam left in me.

  3. David Says:

    Nice blog, Pelle.

    The taboo against speaking about men’s unique abilities is perhaps the single biggest issue. It would not only affect the self-esteem of boys and young men but also affect their chances in the marketplace. If you can speak about all the ways women can excel but not about the ways men can excel, men are at a distinct disadvantage in the marketplace. But it’s not only the inability to speak about men’s unique abilities–I get the feeling that a lot of people simply don’t recognize them, partly due to the fact that people can’t speak about them without being labelled sexist.

    Pelle: “Do I want to marry a woman who is 30+ years old and has had 30+ partners? Evolutionary speaking men have been programmed to bond with younger and (seemingly) not too experienced women. Today, these male thoughts are considered sexist (and not without reason), but it’s well nigh impossible to change ancient programming overnight.”

    Why is it sexist to prefer non-promiscuous women? This could have real repercussions on men’s health. Apparently the single biggest cause of oral and throat cancer in men today is oral sex. As far as I know, this wasn’t happening before the sexual revolution. And of course that’s just one of many possible STDs.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-10-03/oral-sex-may-cause-virus-linked-throat-cancer-in-men-study.html

  4. A father Says:

    «The time has come to reverse that trend and show young men that without them society, culture and even our planet, has no future. «

    I wholehartedly agree with this. I too have thought so for quite some time. We have huge challenges ahead of us. Today, a lot of boys and young men are underperforming. They are unmotivated, and perform far below their potential. In schools and in the workplace. Men have the greatest potential both for constructive and destructive activity. The more men that goes from constructive to no activity, or even destructive activity, the worse the living conditions will be. Society does not treat its boys and men well. Today, one in seven children in the US are medicated for ADHD conditions. I expect that the largest part of these are boys. And I read somewhere, it was expected that of the black boys born today in the US, one third of them would end up in prison one or more times. A society that allows its boys and men to be treated like that will not survive.

    So what should we do? The feminists have not got an answer. If they had, society should have been in a much better conditon since feminism has been the dominating ideology for several decades. They’ve had their chance. As I see it, feminism has led us into a dead end, and their only solution is to push us even harder into that dead end.

    I think that we as men are needed to lead the way out of this dead end.
    But on our own terms and conditions. I fear that if we don’t do that, the future for our grandchildren may be rather uncertain, to say it mildly. I have two children that I wish the best possible future for. Hopefully, we can do this together with some great women. Women that see that they can’t be happy, if their sons are not happy.

    A study showed that male leaders were better than female leaders on visions. I do believe we as men are good on vision and strategy,- we CAN show and lead the way. And if we work together as brothers- a global brotherhood,- nothing can stop us. The world hungers for mature masculine leadership. I sincerly believe that mature masculinty is a gift to the world. And so is mature femininity. It is said that men grow on challenges,- this is really THE challenge. Let’s take it,- for ourselves, our loved ones and the generations to come. But on our own terms and conditions. Men need a direction, a purpose in their life. Can’t this be just what many are looking for? I can’t imagine a better present for the future generations.

  5. Pelle Billing Says:

    Vladimir,

    “Why is it sexist to have a preference towards a younger and less experienced woman? What makes it sexist to discriminate against a woman who had a lot of partners? We discriminate every day for far less.”

    What I wanted to get across is that impulses that come from evolutionary psychology are not the whole story. Men who are happily married want to stay with their wife as they both age. The do not want to give up that relationship to chase younger girls.

    I don’t mean that it’s discrimination to choose your partner freely. In fact, I think it’s a good idea to think carefully about what kind of partner you want, and not let societal ideals cloud your judgment.

  6. Pelle Billing Says:

    David,

    “Why is it sexist to prefer non-promiscuous women? This could have real repercussions on men’s health.”

    I don’t think it’s sexist for an individual men to have that preference. It’s only sexist if you generalize and say that no men want promiscuous women – which is a message that I wanted to avoid sending out.

    Basically I want to honor men’s evolutionary impulses, while also being open to new trends emerging in the future. Perhaps that wasn’t clear since the article is brief.

  7. Pelle Billing Says:

    A father,

    “I sincerly believe that mature masculinty is a gift to the world. And so is mature femininity. It is said that men grow on challenges,- this is really THE challenge. Let’s take it,- for ourselves, our loved ones and the generations to come. But on our own terms and conditions. Men need a direction, a purpose in their life. Can’t this be just what many are looking for? I can’t imagine a better present for the future generations.”

    Well said.

  8. A father Says:

    @Vladimir:
    “Finally, it’s a matter of good taste. I may find it distasteful that a woman will go(or in some case take) with someone the first night she met them. But that is my opinion. I’m not telling everyone to do it. I’m not telling anyone for that matter. But I cannot see myself having a relationship with that kind of a woman.”

    I’ve been thinking quite a lot on this to find out what my view is. What I’ve come to so far is the following: Having sex with someone means placing yourself in a vulnerable situation,- and exposing your most inner and private parts. Both emotionally and physically. Hence this should be done with deep respect for both yourself and your partner. If two partners agree to have sex with each other the first night, I still think that can be a good experience for both,- providing that they threat each other with deep repect. In the Tantra tradition, they regard both the body and sex as something sacred. I like that view.

    For several reasons, I believe in and prefer long, monogamous relationsships. I’m now in my 27th year marriage, and I sincerly hope it will last “until death do us ….”. If I should find a new potential partner, it would be important for me that I could believe that the chance for a long relatonship with her was high. If she had changed boyfriends in the past like others change underwear, I would not consider it likely that our relationsship could last either.

  9. Anna Says:

    I totally agree with you! We women need to start appreciating men more, to value them for the fantastic human beings they are. Society has tought us (women) that men are more or less unnecessary, that we don’t need men in order to live a happy life. As a straight woman I find that to be complete bullsh*t. There is nothing more wonderful than the man you love for being just the unique man that he is. In my opinion society needs to start telling young women that it’s good to be independent but it’s also a good thing to start showing men the appreciation and the respect they deserve. You men are awesome human beings. :)

  10. A father Says:

    @Anna:
    For myself and for my son: thank you! To hear such a message from a woman is much more healing and nourishing than you probably believe. I wish that was the message all boys grew up with. That would have made the world a better place.
    And I can’t understand that all mothers shouldn’t also want that for their sons. Everything in nature is in delicate balance. If the balance is disturbed, ecologic disasters may happen. As we unfortunately have seen many examples of. I do think this is also the case for us humans as gendered beeings. For a man to become a harmonious person, he needs to be blessed both by the mature masculine and the mature feminine. Unfortunately, both of these have failed in todays society. There is nothing more wonderful than a feminine, compassionate and loving woman. The impact she can have on a man and on the world is largely undervalued.

  11. Allan Says:

    @Anna: Thanks for saying that. It is nourishing and healing to hear.

    I must say, it sounds kind of eerie given the flood of negative messages about men from women. (And men). Like some kind of sacrilege that will invite lightning to strike.

  12. Anna Says:

    @A father says and @Allan:
    Your comments really touched my heart and this made me realize that men and women desperately need to start talking to each other. But most importantly, we women need to listen to what you tell us. I really appreciate your replies, the fact that you both used the word “healing” touched me deeply since it showed me not only the enormous communication gap we have to overcome, but also the importance of doing so. This requires that women are made aware of the situation and it’s so wonderful that men’s movements are forming in different parts of the world. I can’t tell you how glad I am to be a part of the men’s movement. :)

    Just in case you speak Swedish, there’s a Facebook group dealing with true gender equality, not the feminist kind. ;)

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/154041424718190/

  13. Pelle Billing Says:

    Anna, A Father and Allen,

    What a beautiful interaction. I’m honored to have it on my blog.

  14. Sandy Says:

    Although I agree with your sentiments but i would not agree that men wanting to choose younger and less experienced women is an evolutionary trait. at a time in china’s history it was concidered normal for a girl to marry a younger boy. sometimes girls of 18/19 were married to eleven year old boys. furthermore in most indigenous cultures promiscuity in all forms for both genders was frowned upon. it is only in the breakdown of these cultures that it starts appearing. essentially if we examine many cultures across history sex and marriage differ so vastly that it is difficult to draw an evolutionary theory form this. secondly i would say that as girl’s bodies and brains mature faster than men’s in general, it would make sense that they would marry older boys/men. one of the biggest problems feminism created was that gender is socially constructed, but please don’t throw out the value feminism has had for countless women and men. you possible grew up in an egalitarian society which i did not and i appreciate that un-like my mother i can now expect the same salary as a man, i can open a bank account without my husband’s signature and i am a considered one of the guardian’s of my children, along with my husband. along with many other freedoms i have feminism to thank for. i recognise feminism’s flaws and the need for both genders to re-define who they are and i appreciate work done by the men’s movements and the dialogues that have ensued, but please acknowledge what feminism has done and the how much more work needs to be done to free woman and children from rape and abuse around the world and in turn free men from these actions.

  15. Sandy Says:

    oh, one more thing! your theory of men going to war as seed is more dispensable than the womb is arguable. it took humans a very long time to work out the connection. in fact in the last century anthropologists discovered cultures that still hadn’t worked it out. so in terms of an evolutionary theory men were warlike prior to making the connection with the seed and the womb, although it certainly would not make sense to send the producers of offspring to be killed, but any account of war will tell how all human beings are the victims of war, not just the soldiers, so unfortunately war is a huge destroyer of the womb in the end anyway. unfortunately too many history books speak only of great warriors and battles and seldom of the true carnage of war. having lived in 2 countries where war has been very close to home, i can easily tell you of the many men eager to go off and fill people with bullets and on the other hand, there are men like my husband that went unwillingly and just ducked in the line of fire!

  16. Pelle Billing Says:

    Sandy,

    “our theory of men going to war as seed is more dispensable than the womb is arguable. it took humans a very long time to work out the connection.”

    They didn’t need to make the connection. That’s not how evolutionary selection works. It needn’t be conscious. It was simply that the most effective cultures “won”, and those cultures were the ones that sent men (and not women) to war.

  17. Pelle Billing Says:

    Sandy,

    “i am a considered one of the guardian’s of my children”

    In most “egalitarian” societies women have more parental rights than men. So it changes quickly.

  18. Jim Says:

    “oh, one more thing! your theory of men going to war as seed is more dispensable than the womb is arguable.”

    Pelle, I have to agree with Sandra on this, but not for the reason she cites. Sperm may be cheap and eggs expensive, but egg carriers are cheap and easier to replace than sperm-carriers. For a group to survive it needs to have as many males as possible. Females who die can be replaced in raids. They most certainly do not have to, in fact they should not, come from inside the group itself.

    “It was simply that the most effective cultures “won”, and those cultures were the ones that sent men (and not women) to war.”

    Here you are right, but it has nothing to do with women’s value in reporduction. It has to do with their effectiveness in war. Sun Zi may have boasted that he could make soldiers out of anyone
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sun_Zi#Life

    …but he was a genius. teh rest of us have to rely on likelier material.

    You are right, but in fact your point proves that men are less rather than more disposable than women. The value we put on female life is a luxury we have worked centuries to be able to afford. Thank Godn we have reached that point.

  19. Zac Says:

    I think this is a well written article. All points make sense. I think I understand what you are trying to say when you say that men are being sexist by wanting to marry young and inexperienced. If you want a women to marry you and you’ve had many sexual partners it is kind of sexist to hold it against a woman that she has as well.

    I really enjoyed the part about how we just don’t connect with the older generation. I feel like there is a huge disconnect between guys in their 20′s and 30′s that grew up on computers/gameboy/internet and the guys who are 50+

    Also I agree that it’s hard for men in the sense we are kind of called sexist when we get excited about the things that make us men.

  20. Nacho Says:

    Just a few words of this almost 40 years old northern spainsh guy.

    I really love promiscous girls. I´m very promiscous too. But IT´S TRUE that when i´ve been going out with promiscous girls i´m feel very nervous about what she were doing on my back. I don´t know if is that what my genes are telling me,l but it´s sadly true. It´s one of my big contradictions. But in my everyday relationships, I ALWAYS prefer a girl who have 15-20 or more partners than those who have 3 or 4. I think tha sexual liberated girls are more interesting, more liberal even more inteligent than the clasic wives or stuff like that.

    Sorry bout mý english. Primary education for english in spain was horrible in my chilidhood hahahahaha

  21. Pelle Billing Says:

    Nacho,

    Yeah, I think that kind of contradiction is fairly common in men nowadays. Different impulses and different value systems are at odds with each other. The good thing is that these kinds of contradictions inspire us to find new solutions and new ways to relate to women. Who knows what the future holds?

    I have no problem understanding your English. It’s much better than my Spanish ;)

  22. Gorb Says:

    The big issue is that a small coteria of very radical gender soldiers – with bizarre and utterly unsupported ideas about gender, men and women – have claimed power in the public spaces in most Western countries, especially in Sweden.

    While almost all peolple disagree with them, the problem is that they’re the ones making pokicy – and they’re like the religious. They believ ein the absolute truth of their beliefs, facts be damned.


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