Saturday, February 09, 2008

Child Man in the Promised Land

Kay Hymowitz has an insightful, though disturbing account of the enduring adolesence of the American male. I have noticed this myself, and have given it some thought. Guys playing video games and hanging out with buddies well into their thirties. Hymowitz walks right up to the explanation, but stops short:
For whatever reason, adolescence appears to be the young man’s default state, proving what anthropologists have discovered in cultures everywhere: it is marriage and children that turn boys into men. Now that the SYM can put off family into the hazily distant future, he can—and will—try to stay a child-man. Yesterday’s paterfamilias or Levittown dad may have sought to escape the duties of manhood through fantasies of adventures at sea, pinups, or sublimated war on the football field, but there was considerable social pressure for him to be a mensch. Not only is no one asking that today’s twenty- or thirtysomething become a responsible husband and father—that is, grow up—but a freewheeling marketplace gives him everything that he needs to settle down in pig’s heaven indefinitely.


Rod Dreher in the Dallas Morning News makes a similar set of observations:
As social critic Philip Rieff foresaw at the dawn of this revolution, the loosening of traditional constraints would make man free, but it would be a liberty fraught with anxiety, even psychological paralysis.

... the process of becoming a man requires a juvenile male to subordinate his own desires to an objective code of conduct – which is to say, some sort of higher authority. In this sense, the self could only be understood and realized in relation to one's community and its values.

The culture warriors of the previous generation were not wrong to question conformity, but they went too far. They have deprived their sons of authoritative tradition, both in word and example, and with it the ability to transcend the adolescent state. Much in our dominant culture conspires to keep young men in a permanent state of adolescence: conscious only of their desires and the impulse to fulfill them. This dependency is tailor-made for a consumerist economy built on creating and exploiting wants. Making the world safe for big business, no doubt, wasn't what the '60s generation had in mind, but it's a little late for do-overs.


And what exactly makes this continual postponing of adulthood possible? The elephant in the room; the naked emperor. Contraception. Think about it.

3 comments:

Ken said...

Contraception is definitely one of the biggest, if not th biggest, contributing factors.

Contraception aided the feminist idea that women should be no more concerned about the consequences of sex outside of marriage than men.

Feminism was good in that it gave women some protections and some real choices. But it is impossible to change the rules for women without also changing the rules for men.

Culturally, the horse is out of the barn, thanks to feminism, the sexual revolution, and the government-as-dad.

As numerous other people have noted, too many boys are being raised without the model of a happy, married father in their home, and they have almost no "male only" instutions left to be socialized as manly men, husbands, and fathers. Everything now is co-ed and geared towards the sensitivities and needs of women.

Young men have been taught that women don't need men, but they see that plenty of women WILL use men, mainly for their money.

At the same time, they've noticed that even (actually, especially) being an unreliable jerk, they can get easy casual sex from many different women with nothing expected or demanded by the women except the physical interaction. And their male relatives, friends, and coworkers who DO get married are often miserable in the marriage or financially and emotionally scarred by divorce, usually initiated by the wife, who then takes his kids and alienates them from their father.

So what will I teach my little girl? As Dr. Laura says: Choose wisely, treat kindly. Marriage and family-minded men and women should seek each other out and avoid the "fish in the sea" who are either hedonistic, or do not want to be dedicated spouses or parents.

Jennifer F. said...

Fascinating post, as always! FYI, I just linked to it from my links blog.

Anonymous said...

We've also delayed the age of financial adulthood. Educated men can't afford a wife until their mid to late twenties. Particularly for the working liberated women, a moneyed mate matters!

RM