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Making Men Without Chests
De-sexing men — a key liberal project.


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Jonah Goldberg

This morning, while shaving my tongue, I started thinking this is what my life would be like without female supervision. You see, the lady is off on a junket and I’ve been left to my own devices for a week. She’s been gone for four days and it is astounding how quickly I’ve regressed. I eat like a post-apocalyptic peasant, giddy that I’ve found canned — and therefore unspoiled — food. Last night I drank too much beer (I know, I know, define “too much”) and came home at 2:30 in the morning only to catch Red Dawn on the tube (TV is always there for you). Another week without a civilizing influence, and I’ll be peeing in the kitchen sink (“always remove the dishes first,” says my etiquette-for-frat-guys guide) and looking like someone who lives in the Port Authority men’s room. Give me a month and I’ll be sneaking into the National Zoo to hunt and kill Thompson’s gazelles for food, their warm musky blood dripping from my chin (mmmm warm musky blood…..).

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Okay, snapping out of it, I guess the point is that men are, well, disgusting. Left unsupervised and to our own devices we would spend our time drunk, beating each other up, scratching, gassing, and eating anything that didn’t have vegetation growing on it or wasn’t fast enough to get away. In other words we’d live like rugby players.

This was once the most obvious, most central, most agreed-upon notion in the history of political philosophy. Sure, Rousseau disagreed with it, but, hey, Rousseau was a putz. Boys need to be trained to be men and men need to be trained to be gentlemen. A Hobbesian world is one dominated by men who were never told to keep their elbows off the table.

What’s weird is that nobody really disputes this. Feminists think boys are little monsters, and so do conservatives. The only dispute is why and what to do about it. The why is actually settled science. Boys’ brains are different (for feminists who think this is so much sexist “privileging” of males, we can also say “girls’ brains are different.” But wait that sounds derogatory. Oh shut up). Boys are more hyper, more competitive, more aggressive, more violent. These characteristics are hardwired. Studies show that if you give a 5-year-old boy a Barbie doll to play with, he will pretend it is a gun or a knife within seconds. That’s what we do, I’m sorry.

If you want a grim example of the stubbornness of human nature, consider the example of Bruce Reimer, as told in the horrifyingly compelling book, As Nature Made Him, by John Colapinto. At seven months, Bruce Reimer was accidentally castrated (all male readers just shifted uneasily in their chairs when they came to the word “castrated” — that is not a conditioned response, it’s in our programming).

A doctor at Johns Hopkins named John Money elatedly persuaded Reimer’s parents to let him turn the boy into a girl. Money was a dedicated gender theorist beloved by feminists for his insistence that all gender norms are socially imposed. Reimer was surgically altered even more, and raised as a girl. He was given dolls to play with and dresses to wear. Money subjected “Brenda” to endless brow-beatings, assuring the boy that he was happy as a girl. He showed “him” plenty of porn to explain sex to him. “Brenda” was force-fed estrogen so “she” could grow breasts. Feminists celebrated Reimer as exhibit A in all sorts of arguments about how gender is a malleable construction of the hated patriarchy. The New York Times said “Brenda” was “sailing contentedly through childhood as a genuine girl.”

The only problem was that “Brenda” never wanted to do girly things. Even though he was always told he was a girl, he insisted on peeing standing up. When given a sewing machine, he took it apart. He liked guns, tinker toys, and dump trucks, as all card-carrying boys do. At every turn he fought the Stalinist therapists and surgeons who wanted to keep mutilating him. By the age of fourteen, he simply gave up being a girl. When he was finally told he had been born a boy, he at once set out for a sex-change reversal.

Dr. Money — who, alas, is not languishing in jail — still practices, and feminists and surgeons alike still use his books as a guide. Still, the feminists who have been running the educational-industrial complex refuse to accept the obvious fact that male nature cannot be completely removed from nurture. Moreover, they are convinced it is girls who are in trouble and their job is to make the world safe for girls. “We need to raise boys like we raise girls,” says Gloria Steinem. You see, boys aren’t naturally violent, they get it from the culture. Somehow these illiterate tykes who can’t be taught to tie their shoes or pick up their socks are actually absorbing complex orders from patriarchy HQ.

And these orders must be countermanded. That’s why a couple of Kindergarten boys in New Jersey were suspended for playing “cops and robbers” recently. In another case, a 9-year-old boy reached for a piece of fruit in a lunch line and accidentally touched a girl too closely.

Authorities had no choice: He was arrested, hand-cuffed, fingerprinted, and charged with sexual harassment (the charges were eventually dropped). One suspects that if feminists had their way the boy would be working in a salt mine right now.

All of this comes from the phenomenal new book, The War Against Boys, by Christina Hoff Sommers. The book overturns the notion that girls are the ones in trouble. Rather boys are slipping further and further behind in almost every significant way — academically, socially, physically. If you want to read more about it check out Rich Lowry’s review.

But let’s move on from boys and deal with men. Radical social engineering always fails, but never completely. Even if these boys refuse to put away their GI Joes, they are still being taught to somehow be ashamed of their maleness. This is a big, big, problem because the only way you can make a gentleman is by grafting the “gentle” part onto the man part. If you refuse to recognize or condone manliness you’ll never be able to harness it.

It may be silly, but men need all sorts of help to do the right thing. They need to be roped into institutional arrangements that encourage them to work hard and play by the rules. Feminists may fairly be delighted about being “liberated,” but what feminism also liberated men from was their obligations. Marriage, broadly speaking, was never designed to trap women, it was set up to harness men. Naturally, most men are inclined to live like lone grizzlies eating whatever carcass they stumble on, fighting with other guys, and finding sweet bear love wherever it presents itself. (Human) marriage enlists men into an arrangement where they are revered for being responsible providers.

Interestingly, in the argument over gay marriage, proponents say the institution, the “marriage contract,” itself is enough to civilize men. Opponents argue, in the words of Mona Charen, that marriage doesn’t civilize men, women do. It surely seems to me that at least women play an important part. With the lady gone, I’m slipping further down the evolutionary ladder every minute. Anyone who’s lived in both coed conditions and all male housing knows that guys are vastly more civilized with chicks around. I know a guy who lived in a fraternity where the guys would get really drunk and then hurl themselves, stomach-first, onto a balcony railing to see how far they could project their vomit with the added Heimlich-leverage. (By the way, this is another hard-wiring example: Most men think the word “vomit” is extremely funny. Few women do.) I guess I need to say it outright: Men do not competitively projectile-vomit (tee-hee) when women are around, or more specifically, when ladies are around.

Which brings up the real damage in all of this feminist indoctrination. Sure, the boys will ultimately resist the push to make them girls. But what about the girls? What happens when they are taught that manly attributes are unattractive? Men follow the market. If women demand squishy, non-judgmental weenies, than color us weenies. If women swoon at men who strive to do right, then more men will strive to do right. If women are willing to tolerate intramural vomit (giggle) contests then men will keep holding them. And, if women are unwilling to assume their responsibilities in encouraging men to be gentlemen, then men will not be gentlemen. In a world where divorce is no-fault, sexual promiscuity is no-cost, and self-indulgence is no vice, then men — like always — are going to do precisely as much as they can get away with.



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