August 25, 2006

A hypothesis on why men's lives are more difficult nowadays

UPDATE, Saturday August 26: The original post is back on line.

Note: This is the post that I posted last Tuesday at my blog. Since my blog was fried because of bandwith, I posted it here. Many many thanks to The Cotillion for allowing me to do this

As I've mentioned before, I'm not a shrink, and (as I'm sure that regular visitors to this blog have noticed) I'm not a deep thinker. The following post is only my personal observations over an issue that's come up recently. Take it with a grain of salt.

In yesterday's post I said

I've felt for a long time that women have easier lives than men. Being a man in today's world strikes me as a most difficult position
A friend wrote asking for clarification of both points.

The main reason I believe that women have easier lives than men is that I've had an easier life as a woman than my brother has had as a man. I can not, and will not, go into details, so you'll just have to take my word on this. However, I have a hypothesis on why men's lives are more difficult nowadays. There are three main trends why being a man in today's world strikes me as a most difficult position:

1. The Church of Oprah
2. Sex and the City
3. Teen girl media
The Church of Oprah
One of the central tenets of the Church of Oprah is that women are inherently better than men. A corollary of that is that women are more nurturing than men.

This point of view has been erroneously based on the fact that men are not women.

While the women's movement might want to believe that men are hirsute women with different plumbing, they are mistaken. No matter how they cut it, one fact remains

Men are not women, and women are not men.
That doesn't mean they have nothing in common, either. A former Oprah protege has made piles of money - has actually created an industry - out of the premise "men are from Mars and women are from Venus" (if you want to look it up, knock yourself out, I'm not linking to it). Nonsense. Women and men are made of the same clay. Just because men are not women doesn't mean they come from another planet.

Jeff Foxworthy has said "Men are simple creatures. They want a beer, and they want to see something naked" which, if you ask the average Joe, is true. Let's divide Jeff's statement in two parts and see what this means, in Oprahspeak:
a. "they want a beer": men don't like to talk about their feelings. In fact, the more you insist that a man discuss his feelings at length, the more he will resent you. Since the Church of Oprah is based on confessional feelings, this invariably leads to problems among its adherents. Rather than fill six verbal pages of conversation about his feelings, a man will rather sit down, have a beer and enjoy a moment of emotional peace and quiet. That's what Jeff means by "they want a beer".

b. "they want to see something naked": they do because it's in their wiring. As Ron White put it, "once you've seen a naked woman, you want to see them all."
Men and women have been having sex with each other without love for as long as there've been men and women. However, while I have known two severely emotionally damaged women who truly loved men and not desire them, I've never even heard of a man who did not desire the woman he loved. A man may not love a woman he desires, but a man can not not desire a woman he loves. That's just the way it works.
(see also this gentleman's comment)

Let's look at 'women are inherently better than men'. If you believe that, you are WRONG. Virtue and character are inherent on each person, and gonads do not determine either; never have, never will.

Similarly, women are not more nurturing than men. Men don't want to talk about being supportive and loving but they are.

For every manipulative and abusive man, there is an equally manipulative and abusive woman. The form of the manipulation and abuse may vary between the genders, but neither gender has the exclusive on that. Having attended an all-girls' school for eleven years, I'll dare say that women can be much more worse (pardon the grammar) at both manipulation and emotional abuse, and many indeed are.

Additionally, many many women believe that men can't feel as deeply as women, since men generally don't verbalize hurt, grief, and despair (and I'd even say that the more deeply they feel those, the less they can verbalize them). Again, that is incorrect. Gonads do not determine the quality of a soul. Compounding the impression that many women have about men's feelings is the fact that many men can only express the depth of their despair through violent means (and I'm most certainly not justifying the violence, which is wrong no matter what), which in turn becomes more fodder for the daily installment of the Church of Oprah.

So we have a whole industry (network and cable TV, magazine, books, seminars) propagating the idea that women are inherently better than men. That's factor #1.

Sex and the City
Factor #2 is what I call the Sex and the City syndrome: the assumption that the only reason for men's existence is to pleasure women. The 4 women in S&TC certainly spend most of their air time using men (I did a related post a while ago) for that purpose and that purpose only. And in real life, too, there are many such women, probably a lot more now than there were a generation or two ago.

The end result is that many women nowadays won't want to find intimacy. No matter how great a guy is, if he comes across a woman who will not want intimacy - no matter how great the sex - that relationship can not progress beyond that. A man who wants commitment and yearns for a reciprocal relationship will be setting himself up for hurt and disappointment if he thinks he can survive in a relationship with a woman who will not surrender herself to his love, or, equally as damaging, if he can not recognize that she is incapable. That's factor #2.

Teen girl media
Factor #3 I just noticed recently, and is related to factor #2.

The salon where I get my manicure used to carry the usual women's magazines, such as Vogue and Good Housekeeping, but in the past few months they've had a large number of teen girls' magazines, among them Seventeen, and magazines supposedly marketed to young adult women, such as Glamour, Jane and Cosmopolitan. Since I'm well past their demographic and there are no teen girls in my home, I hadn't read any of those for literally decades.

I was in for a huge surprise.

Seventeen gives a lot of sex advice, not just on birth control, but on how. Glamour, Jane, and Cosmo might be marketed to women in their early twenties but I assure you that when I was 12 years old (way before Jane was concieved) I was reading my neighbor's older sisters' Cosmos at their house. In a recent issue of Jane, for instance, there was clear and explicit advise on how to perform oral sex, and how and where to have sex in public. The subject of the articles is not much different from what Gerard Van der Leun was editing back when he worked for Penthouse.

If you believe I exaggerate, read what (according to the NYT article The Taming of the Slur) Atoosa Rubenstein, editor of Seventeen magazine, has to say:

"Today, 'slut,' even 'ho' - girls use it in a fun way, a positive way," said Atoosa Rubenstein, the editor in chief of Seventeen magazine, adding that a phrase such as "you little slut" has become a way for girlfriends to bust each other's chops.
As Betsy Newmark asked,
Does this strike anyone else as really a sick sign of where we are in our society?
The net result, as The Anchoress points out, is that many young men are finding
that intimacy has been defined downward, especially for our young girls, to mean little more than a "hook-up." This is something Buster talks to me about. Children, but especially girls, are being sexualized at ever-earlier ages. The sexual messages begin very young in television commercials and on the clothes-store racks, and most of Buster's generation grew up watching Friends and Sex in the City and thinking that this was what life was: a series of sexual encounters with no emotional attachments, no repercussions, no pain, no loss of oneself.

Sexualized early, many girls are either overly jaded or mistrustful and remote. Buster says a troubling number of girls his age are sexually hyper-active, but unhappy and lonely - they cannot make good, healthy connections with respectable young men, because they don't "get" the guys who open car doors for them and who look for a relationship to be about more than a "hook-up" or perfunctory oral sex. (A romance recently busted up because Buster wanted a real relationship, and the girl, a nice-enough kid, simply did not know what that meant!)

In conclusion, if these three factors don't make men's lives more complicated than they already are, I don't know what would.

I'm opening comments on this post, for the first time in several months.

Postscript: A note to V.:
If you are reading this, here's what I have to say:
Anyone that calls you at work to break up with you not only doesn't deserve you, but is a bad person. Character is everything and that person has proved to be bad.
The pain that you postpone by getting back together will only be a down payment on the pain you'll be feeling years down the line. As your dad said, you're setting yourself up for an encore.

Update Maxed-Out Mama:

by banishing the word "virtue" from our publicly acceptable vocabulary we women have rendered ourselves incapable of recognizing virtue in a man
Read every word.

(technorati tags , , , , , ) Posted by Fausta at August 25, 2006 12:32 PM


Great post Fausta. I really do feel for parents trying to do a good job rasing boys AND girls these days.

Posted by: Janette at August 25, 2006 12:54 PM

A pleasure to read: literate, cogent, interesting.

-A guy

Posted by: Pav at August 25, 2006 02:52 PM

We are in a time of cultural shift, so everything sexual is in chaos.

The ready availability of contraception started it, espicially in pill form. Suddenly, sex was consequence free! Want some? Go down to the club, and its not that hard to get some casually. This was the cause of a sudden massive loss of inhibitions and taboos.

Then the process reversed for a time. A series of STI problems - and associated panic - was largely responsible for this. There was also a moral backlash, which has been strengthening rapidly for some years now, and which the post I reply to is demonstrating. After the brief time of casual, free-for-all sex, the emphesis returns once more to romantic love and lifetime commitment.

As moral panics do, this one is swinging too far - once again, sex becomes a taboo subject, and now it becomes something which must be heavily discouraged outside of a very rarely attained idea. This had lead so such terrible ideas as abstinance-only education: The idea that the percieved romantic culture of pre-contraception can be restored if all references to contraception are removed.

Eventually its going to shift again. The current situation is unstable - the puritanical movement is powerful, without any doubt, but its pulling against a whole culture now. The trend is set in motion, and its going to take a lot to change it. I have no idea whats going to happen in the future, but I suspect we will see more diversification of culture and attitudes to sex by age and region.

Posted by: Suricou Raven at August 26, 2006 08:15 AM

I believe you have described the main reason why many young men are opting not to marry. Why bother to form a relationship with someone that is convinced that you are a bad person?? If a woman allows liberal feminist to define men that is exactly what she will believe.

Posted by: ronly at August 26, 2006 08:43 AM

ronly raises a good question.
Additionally, several other commenters at my site have brought up the issue of punitive divorce laws that have onerous penalties against men.

Posted by: Fausta at August 26, 2006 08:51 AM

In this entire debate, I still see a lot of 'us ag'in them'. As an older, retired, M2F transgendered person, (and 40 year registered Republican!) I am no longer part of the romantically active fray, but I have war stories about the horrid inequities of the family court system, and the power-tripping that goes on in many relationships, be they hetero, homo or bisexual. I have had a unique view of relational dynamics over the years.

I have jumped to most of the links you have provided, and widened my views, but I come back to my innate culturization, formed over more than 60 years. People could well afford to be nicer to each other, to much good effect, and the wag who commented, The war between the sexes will never end, although there seeems to be a lot of fraternization with the enemy."

Having been severly burnt financially, and emotionally a number of times -- perhaps I am a slow learner -- I now treat the idea of a permanent relationship, or marriage the way an alcoholic approaches the temptation to get drunk. "I won't say I'll never get married again, but I'm not going to get married *today*."

~ erehwon ~

Posted by: Erehwon at August 26, 2006 09:18 PM