This is really long, feel free to skip this but I would really recommend reading it
The Makings of a Man
In fourth grade, there was a young boy, for now let’s call him Lee, who was quiet and unable to speak. Lee wasn’t mute or deaf; he simply didn’t know the language or the culture so he was silent. One day, Lee was walking home from school with a Yu-Gi-Oh lunch box when another student approached him and said what Lee believed were a few nice words. “Go back to where you came from!” The student took his lunchbox, threw it at the pavement, and proceeded to make fun of Lee’s accent and height. That was his best friend. Over time, I have thought about this situation and asked many things that would insult Lee’s “best friend,” until I considered why he did that to him. Let’s call this best friend Johnny. Johnny was the oldest of three children and at home he is left tending to his family. At about 5:30 every night, his father comes home, drinks a can of sprite, and tells him repeatedly to, “shut up idiot! Leave me alone.” Later I ask myself, did he ever stand a chance? Boys and men alike, whether at home or in college, RM’s or not, are exposed to hyper-masculinity. Hyper-masculinity is synonymous to Masculinity, which is defined as qualities or characteristics of a man, but perverts it by over emphasizing it. However boys are left trying to define these qualities with the examples of a bully and father who may or may not be there for them because they tell them to, “shut up,” “be a man,” or “suck it up,” etc. Hyper-masculinity and the lack of real role models lead boys to feel insecure about their masculinity, forcing them to prove themselves constantly through what they perceive as manly, such as aggression and objectification of women. We as a society needs to stop hyper-masculinity by showing affection, spreading awareness of this problem, and giving boys the ability to freely express their emotions. Otherwise they will most often only hurt themselves and the people around them through violence, sexual aggression, and low self-esteem because of unrealistic standards.
Boys who did not grow up with a good father figure or role model are left trying to define masculinity on their own. Typically whenever a child, specifically a boy, cries, it’s easy to tell him to, “Man up,” or to, “get over it.” However this gives children the perception that emotions will make one weak. Let’s go back to the original story. Johnny didn’t have a real role model in his life because the only father figure he had is one who emotionally tormented him to silence, and aggression towards Lee. Society sees masculinity as having the core beliefs of:
· Toughness as a form of emotional control
· Violence and danger are exciting and should be taught early
· Acceptance to being callous to women and sex
By saying these traditional words of being a man, boys were left trying to define their own masculinity through these societal norms. This creates the impression that these acts listed above are not only acceptable but also necessary to become a man. Looking back, it’s hard for me to blame Johnny for anything, since all he knew were these beliefs. If we were all taught to ignore these emotions and use toughness as a form of emotional control, then wouldn’t it be natural for us to use toughness to gain a (somewhat abusive) friendship with Lee too? Now of course everyone has a choice to whether or not they should obey these standards, that’s what free-agency is for, however typically whenever one falls away from these unspoken standards, it’s easy to just call them a mama’s boy, or a baby, or simply weak. The idea of being seen as weak or as a baby starts from the very beginning of boyhood and follows us for the rest of our lives.
Hyper-masculinity isn’t just in the workplace or on campus but can also manifest in the family setting and media, and affect their views on everyone around them. According to UNI, “boys learn in their families, and later, from their peers, to suppress emotions they actually feel by acting out anger whether they feel it or not.” The idea of masculinity, though usually never explicitly defined in the household, follows boys throughout their lives, starting at home then to their peers, denying boys the opportunity to truly express how they feel. When I asked my parents about this topic, often they don’t realize what they are doing. They were merely telling me this to get me to stop crying, or make me be quiet. However, I don’t think parents know the implications these words may have on children if they are not also taught with love or support. Without this, “men are often distant and aloof to avoid effective communication.” From these experiences, it can affect boys in their relationships and dating because it gives boys the rationale that being distant and okay because it helps avoid effective communication. Now I’m sure there’s a lot of people who are willing to testify that boys can be jerks (or other maybe more profane words), however it’s good to note that maybe it’s just because they weren’t taught any other way. This bizarre situation only sets them up for failure. By being cold and aloof they succeed in fulfilling societal standards, yet they fail in creating lasting friendships. Or they do create lasting friendships but have self-inflicting thoughts because they might see themselves as being weak or “girly” for talking about something real.
Hyper-masculinity also appears in technology and media. Over time, the Internet, and video games specifically, have been portraying men as these violent aloof characters. Take Master Chief from the Halo Franchise. Throughout the series of the game, he kills a few million aliens, forms very few friendships (his closest one being with his own A.I.), and almost never talks about how he feels. If these are the type of role models kids have growing up, then it can easily affect boys to see violence and lack of emotions as a norm. Going further, in some cases, it may even desensitize boys to violence and lead them to perform such acts to prove themselves a man. Though it is clear that hyper-masculinity can negatively affect boys, some critics disagree.
Some people believe that masculinity and hyper-masculinity are necessary to create strong leaders so that boys are capable of, “getting back up from anything,” (Cypher) and so they can be viewed as strong. However, though critics may have good intentions, it is flawed in that they are working under the assumption that being seen as strong and performing acts of hyper-masculinity is what boys want from an early age. Often people teach kids only one way of masculinity which can lead to these negative impacts, and therefore are ignorant of any other way of learning masculinity. Sometimes people teach these things to kids with the intention of making them stronger but their beliefs supersedes what the child actually wants for himself, and thus they forget to include the child in the discussion. They could be right, however by forcing them to follow and blindly obey without the child’s insight or consent, he is unable to truly be himself but rather just a product of his parents and what society wants from him. Also it gives the child an additional pressure to behave the way he is expected, and when he can’t fulfill these roles, he is left feeling ashamed, inflicting himself with harmful thoughts that cause lower self-esteem. If taught or forced to abide by hyper-masculine views, a child may have difficulty accepting others and himself throughout his life.
Hyper-masculinity can cause desensitization to sexual aggression, violence, and reckless disregard for themselves and the people around them primarily through the exposure to porn. Though not as explicit in BYU, one topic hyper-masculinity may affect is men’s reaction towards the objectification of women, porn and rape. First off, let’s talk about porn. I don’t want to grasp that because of solely hyper-masculinity, Utah is the #1 porn subscriber and viewer of the nation, because obviously there’s more than one reason to why that is. But for right now, let’s focus on one specifically. The talk. The birds and the bees. The awkward question of where do babies come from. In the state of Utah, sexual education is strictly abstinence based. There are even districts who are unwilling to talk about homosexuality, extra/premarital sex, contraceptives or anything relating to how one actually makes a baby. Of course there might be pros to this situation, however because kids aren’t taught those things, and since most parents are very awkward or unwilling to have this discussion, kids refer to the Internet for advice. Spoiler alert, this is where porn comes in. Through hyper-masculinity, it leads boys to feel unsafe or uncomfortable when talking to their peers, because they don’t want to be told to shut up. So instead of confronting their problems, in this case of sexual curiosity, they look to the Internet. And because of the lack of sexual education, unfortunately pornography becomes their sexual education… And what lies there, is far from what they are looking for. What they find isn’t at all related to love or sex, but rather a demonic form of domination, submission, and normalized sexual brutality over the partner. And since most likely he has no sexual experiences prior to that, it creates the assumption that this is what is right to do and that this is what women want in a man, which is crazy. Comparing themselves to porn is not only wrong, but also will also set them up for failure due to unrealistic expectations since porn is not real life, causing lower self-esteem in young men. Nationally, 93% of young boys (before 18 yrs. old) are exposed to Internet porn, 68% of them watch porn weekly, and 21% watch porn daily (UNH). Through this excessive viewing of hazardous entertainment, boys are desensitized and may be left embracing this as a norm. From the lack of a role model it causes boys to rely on the Internet for guidance, and instead of having a true father figure they are instead left developing a relationship with a computer in isolation. Ok, let’s be realistic here. Having a good father figure doesn’t necessarily stop one from falling into that temptation. Most people on campus are probably raised with a good father figure or role model, however even then it is still an awkward topic that most parents are unable to fully teach. Take the law of chastity for example, every young teacher knows that this is probably one of the most awkward or hardest lessons in the year to teach and it’s not their fault. It’s because of this strange taboo around sex and our unwillingness to have a mature conversation about it, and until we are able to confront and talk about this as adults, we are unable to overcome this problem of hyper-masculinity and its relations to porn. Unfortunately, porn isn’t where this conversation stops.
Hyper-masculinity also affects men’s view on women and the objectification of women. In media and in our culture, it’s like every advertisement is for the exploitation of women and it not only changes young boy’s perspective on women, but it also causes women to feel insecure about themselves. When talking to some of my friends in other universities, they talk about women as objects created for them, and I don’t think they truly understand the full implications of that. Whenever someone says, “I’d like to NCMO that,” or “I’d like to slap that,” not only are men referring women to objects but they’re merely seeing them as an object for their own personal pleasure. These thoughts only breed sexism, and it’s almost as if we are teaching them to not see the humanity in women. Every person has a multi-faceted identity, whether man or woman, are created for more things than just a NCMO, nevertheless for one’s personal pleasure. I believe everyone deserves a certain level of respect and dignity, and unfortunately in the way some boys are taught, it prevents them from seeing that. Due to this spreading belief of objectification through hyper-masculinity, in some cases, it creates far worse consequences.
Through the hyper-masculine norm of callous actions towards women and sex, hyper-masculinity, in some cases, can lead to sexual aggression and rape. According to a psychological report in 2003, hyper-masculinity can create emphatic responses towards violent pornography (sagepub). Consider this, if a boy is taught to use violence as a form of self-control, then watches violent porn for 30 minutes almost every day, then plays violent video games for about an hour; if he is invited to go to a party where every other guy is taught the same way, someone is probably going to die or get raped. I know this sounds strong, but this is a discussion about hyper-masculinity’s affect on rape, and that should never be taken lightly. Of course I don’t want to make this generalization. There are probably some very high-functioning people who do this on a regular basis and succeed in their life ambitions (who also needs to talk to the honor code office). Nevertheless, this potential for sexual aggression and violence is very real and does exist. To bring gravity to the situation, in US college campuses, 1 of every 5 women are sexually assaulted or raped, 90% of which will go unreported, and 8 out of 10 times will be from someone they know (nsvrc). In the past few months, I keep hearing the words, “the rape culture in America is spreading.” However this doesn’t mean that there are monsters crawling out of the sewers, it’s worse, we are raising rapists. I don’t mean this as an insult or as a false claim towards you, the audience, however it doesn’t make that phrase any less true. Recently, we have seen Brock Turner released from prison, for raping a woman just several months prior. In a sad twist, in some parts of our country, being caught with a blunt is a far more serious offense than being a repeated sexual offender. And boys take advantage of this. Compared to girls, boys are more likely to commit these crimes and when taking a step back, it’s not necessarily their fault. If society teaches them that this is correct, and there is no one else there to lead them to the right path, then wouldn’t it be natural or relatively easy to fall for those sins? It’s easy to point the blame and imprison young naïve boys, and though it fulfills our desire of accountability, it does not solve the underlying problem. There is a way to stop this by teaching kids early on about this question of hyper-masculinity.
There are probably several solutions to hyper-masculinity, however its applications have always been under the most criticism. The easiest and probably best way to prevent hyper-masculinity is to teach young men early on about the problem and by showing them affection. Some claim that it is reckless or harmful to teach kids sexual education because they’re too young for that. However at the age of 13, if they don’t know or have a basic knowledge of what sexual education is, in middle school and depending on your area it is very easy to find other profane or unreliable sources (to put it nicely). Secondly, by neglecting to share this knowledge to children, it forces kids into ignorance of what is going on around them. Others claim that it is probably one of the most awkward talks, however it doesn’t have to be. If we keep living in fear of telling the truth, then we are essentially accepting the lie that hyper-masculinity is okay. Now I don’t want to discredit the difficulty of telling these things because it really is hard. And most things worth telling are. It is a difficult conversation, but is necessary, because the consequence of not telling them far outweighs the fear or recovery necessary to get back to who you were and want to become. A few key things I believe are necessary to teach kids are the eternal value of women and other people, the ineffective use of violence or bullying as a form of self-control, and the true joy of simply talking about how one feels. In addition to teaching kids early on it is important to raise kids with love and support rather than sheer discipline and punishment. Now that doesn’t mean, as parents one should obey the child’s every wish, nor that the child is always right, nor that we superimpose what we believe is right onto them without their acknowledgment or input. This can be done through compromise of each other’s goals or at least acknowledging the child’s views before saying no. Not by telling them to shut up or telling them suck it up and be a man because that will only bring them down and limit their ability to express themselves. Others claim that they wouldn’t because it would make their child seem weak or out of the herd. But doing this only increases the power of hyper-masculinity in our culture and if no one acts now, then it is no wonder why nothing seems to change. On this section specifically I’ve had many criticisms, specifically from parents and adults. “You’re just a freshman, what do you know?” “You’ve never been a husband or a father, who are you to tell me what to do?” “You can’t tell me how to raise my kids, they’re mine.” And these are fair criticisms. Most likely there are some in the audience who fervently disagrees with my views and that’s okay. That’s the power of true freedom and agency: having the ability to distinguish and choose what has meaning in your life regardless of faith or evidence. Nevertheless, if swallowing one’s pride has the possibility to change a child’s life for the better, then in my opinion it is well worth the risk. By teaching kids early on and raising them in love and support, they are better equipped to becoming successful young men.
The view of being seen as a man or as a gentleman has changed a lot over time. However, if we’re not careful about what to teach our own kids, we can inadvertently lead them in a path of pornography, sexual aggression, and violence, that not only affects them but everyone around them. In fourth grade, I met a boy and he was my best friend. His name was Johnny. He bullied me and I thought it was okay because we were led to believe that this was a sign of strength. We couldn’t talk about being afraid. We couldn’t talk about feeling hurt. We couldn’t talk about feeling sad. Only things that brought out what we perceived were our strengths: anger, violence, and confidence. It wasn’t until years later did we reconcile become real friends and it could’ve been sooner with the right guidance. But for everyone else, it doesn’t have to be that way. If we act, it can be done. It can be reversed. If we let them grow in love and support, then anything is possible.