From Men to Boys

Masculinity is a fascinating topic. I really am quite intrigued by what it means to ‘be a man’ and how that has changed over the last 200 years. There is a biological component (no doubt) but there is also a really prevalent social component. Masculinity is a construct in flux.

I was in College training for ministry during the Promise Keepers years. As a minister interacting with different families, I realized that the PK model didn’t work for every guy (and fewer gals). I loved the subject though and I read everything from “Wild at Heart” to Lads Mags. There was little doubt for me that masculinity was changing even in my lifetime. This was obvious at every level from my Family Reunions to the Church’s men’s retriets and Pastor Conferences to the missions trips we went on to other countries.

The best resource that I ever found was a book called “King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: the archetypes of a man“. It is written from a Jungian perspective and it is powerful powerful stuff.

I have been saying for a long time that something is in the air. Part of it is the divorce culture, part of it is the feminist revolution, part of it is the medium of media (video games and internet) and part of it is the economy-work force.  But something is up.I try to keep my eyes out, and in the past decade I have seen some really interesting stuff. There was a study a couple of years ago about how guy’s Christmas lists  were the exact same whether they were 35 or 18.  This was the first time that had happened since  researchers started tracking such things. The point was that a man in his mid-thirties should be after very different things than a young man just out of high school. (I think that video games were the top thing on both lists)

In last weekend’s LA Times there was a fascinating article called Day of the Lout. It detailed a pretty fascinating shift in the media. We have always had funny snapshots like “Failure to Launch” about men who refuse to grow up. That is not what this is about.  See, always in the past – it was still primarily about chasing women. Even in a genre like Buddy Films there was a pervasive interest in women.

That is the difference here

Louts luxuriate in their lack of sophistication. Louts travel in packs or just hang out with one another. Louts dress in T-shirts and jeans and eschew fashion. Louts guzzle beer rather than sip wine, and they are most likely to be spotted in bars or lounging on living room couches watching football. Louts don’t talk feelings; they talk sports and beer. Louts have few needs and no shackles. Above all, louts may ogle women and snicker about them, but women are pointedly never their top priority. At most, women are objects, just like in the old days. That’s the revenge part. Louts don’t have to make any concessions to women. Louts barely need women. Just give a lout a Bud and his buds and he’s happy.

The article is well worth reading. The trend is baffling… but I think that it is real. This is fascinating because the biology is not changing (evolving) as fast as the social construct is morphing – and I wonder what that will do for both society and family for the next generation.


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sam
    Feb 20, 2011 @ 06:36:28

    a brilliant comedian once said (i am dramatically cleaning this up) that if women were a commodity, they’d be worthless, because the market has been flooded. if the commodity model fits, then we have to think about sex and relationships in an economic light. whenever a commodity becomes easily available, demand eventually plummets. women have made sex easier to get (there’s more going on than that, that’s an oversimplification, but a rough summation of the sexual revolution and post-feminist revolution culture), guys don’t feel the need to work for it, they can pick up a girl whenever the desire strikes them without too much effort. I think consumerism DOES explain this pretty well. The market has been flooded and the price has plummeted. It all boils down to heuristics. We make mental shortcuts. We are taught in our consumerist culture to view everything as an exchange. Either of money for goods and services, or an exchange of time for something else. Time is new master currency. We talk about time the same way we talk about money. We do everything with time that we do with money except save it in a bank. We talk about “wasting” time, meaning we’re not using time efficiently, just like “wasting” money. So when consumerism teaches us over and over again, everything is a transaction, it either costs money or time or something else. The problem is, real relationships do not work in the transaction model. Real relationships do not function when thought of in cost/benefit ratios. Real relationships do not work if people are always trying to get the most of their time. We feel that we must get something in exchange. But that’s not how relationships work. When you couple that with the so-called “cult of independence” in American culture, you have an entire generation of people who see relationships as violations of personal liberty and inefficient transactions of time. The one night stand is the “fire sale” of relationships when thought of in the exchange model. You get a lot out of it (in quantifiable terms) for little commitment of time and effort.


  2. John Worst, Gwangju, South Korea
    Feb 20, 2011 @ 09:05:12

    Dude Bo,

    Thanks so much for this! It is really fascinating.

    For society – my guess is polarization of men into Louts and Non-Louts.
    For family – no idea – maybe less families and more internet porn.

    So I bought Choppers 2 for $0.99 on the Mac App Store a month ago, and I played it every day until I beat it on the the hardest setting. I’m not really a big gamer, but something about being a helicopter pilot and rising to the challenge of beating the next level (reaching clear goals) was simply intoxicating. It got so bad that Karissa started giving me looks and sighing every time the theme music would rise up from the computer.

    I watched a Colbert Report (maybe Stewart) awhile ago (maybe a month), and there was a woman on who said that she and some other people were working to change the world (for the better!) through video games. Did you catch that episode?


  3. LeadFromTheFringe
    Feb 20, 2011 @ 22:10:50

    You two have given me a lot to think about. I am not sure that either consumerism or technology fully explains this phenomenon.

    One of the advantages of moving toward an “Emergence” understanding is that I think in ‘webs’ and ‘networks’ of meaning and interpretation. So I don’t “need” a foundational reason or a silver bullet interpretation 😉 I am o.k. with things being complicated and elaborate!

    Thank you both for your posts. You have me thinking…


  4. Ben Verble
    Feb 21, 2011 @ 11:58:48

    I appreciated reading through this discussion, both here and on Facebook. I agree that the issue is complicated and should not be reduced to technology and consumerism. This is a complex issue. I’m glad that this is being discussed, both because of the little lout that lives in me and because of the louts I know and love in my life.

    Bo: thanks for posting this article and starting the discussion.


  5. LeadFromTheFringe
    Feb 21, 2011 @ 19:23:01

    Ben – I am glad to be in dialogue about this. There is really something changing and I am pretty convinced that it is a multi-faceted development. There is much to consider and will require layers and layers of conversation and analysis.
    The impact will be deep and probably long lasting so noting the shift is the first step.

    thanks for chiming in. I really appreciate it.


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