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Dear Young Men

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Dear young men,

I want to tell you what I wish I’d been told, as I bumbled through the awkward years between 15 and 25. This whole letter might sound self-important, coming from a 34-year-old who writes mostly about how he’s just beginning to get the hang of adult life. Maybe it is, and you can take it or leave it.

All I know is that when I was negotiating that stretch between junior high and full adulthood, I could have used some guidance from men who were old enough to be done with that phase, but who were too young to be my dad.

But I didn’t have that, so like most of us, I picked up my strategies from the similarly confused young men around me. Even though that’s pretty normal, in terms of instructions on how to be a mature and respectful adult it’s hard to do worse than that — so I hope I can offer you a bit of insight you might not find among your peers. You’ll still have to choose who to believe and who to ignore, I just want to offer a different voice than the ones you may be hearing.

Some of what follows applies particularly to straight young men, because I’m pulling it from my own experience, but I think the principles behind it are pretty universal.

You will constantly have people telling you, both implicitly and explicitly, that you have to be a man. What that even means, in the 21st century, I don’t quite know. It certainly has a less specific meaning than it used to, and that’s a good thing. Machismo was never a good fit for many of us guys, and it clearly doesn’t make the world a more enlightened place.

Still, if you are male, you will be forced to relate to this increasingly irrelevant concept of “being a man” in some way or another.

Even though we humans are (thankfully) moving on from seeing ourselves as two distinct kinds of creatures, there’s nothing wrong with being a man, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. There’s nothing wrong with doing traditionally “manly” things. Don’t be embarrassed by them. If you want to watch football on Sunday, or train in MMA, or grow a handlebar mustache, or buy a pickup truck, make no apologies. 

No, there’s nothing wrong with masculinity — until it’s used as a gauge for measuring and excluding people, whether they’re women or other men, or people who don’t identify as either. Regardless of whether masculinity appeals to you, either as something to embody or to simply admire in others, understand that it’s purely a matter of personal taste and has nothing to do with personal value.

Don’t worry about how your sexual experience (or absence of it) stacks up. At about age 14, boys feel like they have to start bullshitting about their sexual exploits in order to survive. The pressure on these kids is just too great for them to speak frankly about it. Ignore what everyone says about their sex lives. They are lying, all of them, at least a little.

Forget the word “virgin,” as a descriptor for both yourself and others. It’s an archaic, irrelevant word, meant to stigmatize and shame people. It oversells a person’s first sex act as some grand, transformational experience, which supposedly vindicates a young man and spoils a young woman. It’s an obsolete, religious, judgmental word. Let’s leave it behind.

Failing to “fit in” in school is a good thing. It means there’s some element of individuality in you that will not be squashed. God help you if your self-esteem peaks in high school.

Nobody knows who they are at that age anyway. People start to get an idea of what’s important to them and who they want to be in their late twenties or early thirties. Just try not to cause too much damage in the mean time. Simply survive those awkward years. Get good grades and make some friends, but don’t worry about being cool. Successfully achieving coolness in high school is like being knighted by Ronald McDonald.

All young men will encounter the “seduction community” at some point. Beware. While there is some genuinely well-intentioned dating and self-improvement advice to be found there, so much of the discussion is absolutely riddled with misogyny. It isn’t always overt, but it’s always there. If you start referring to women as “targets,” you crossed the line a long time ago.

Think of women as being just like you, rather than some other species. You don’t learn to approach women, you learn to talk to people. Those forums are filled with young men who never learned how to talk to other people. When you’re thirty, come back and read this stuff. It will make you sad.

If there’s a real secret to “seduction,” here it is: Always be building a life that turns you on, represent yourself as honestly and straightforwardly as you can, and have conversations with a lot of people. That’s it. Connections will happen. If you’re bad at those things, give yourself as long as it takes to get good at them. You have time.

On the matter of “sluts” — there are none. Nobody is a slut. The number of sexual partners a person has had, or is rumored to have had, is a) none of your business and b) indicates, by itself, absolutely nothing about the character of that person. If you want to know what kind of person someone is, talk to them. If you believe in personal freedom you cannot believe in sluts.

Throughout your life you’ll encounter sexist attitudes, even from your favorite people. Much of it will come in the form of what you are supposed to do, think and say, in order to be a man. And unless you’re not paying attention, you’ll almost certainly discover some of these attitudes in yourself. Sexism isn’t confined to bigots and wife-beaters. It’s too common, too normal for that. It is often subtle, unintentional, even well-meaning.

You have a responsibility here, whether you want it or not. Some of the very normal expectations that will be placed on you as a male — to distance yourself from femininity, to be tough and stolid, to laugh at certain jokes, to use words like “slut” without irony, to deride ambitious or non-traditional women, to dominate and emasculate other males — are keeping even the most enlightened parts of this world less hospitable for women than for you.

Learn to recognize and violate these expectations. Don’t be another dead billiard ball, passing this nasty energy on to your peers, and eventually your sons. We need new norms, and creating them will take the help of defiant and thoughtful young men. That’s you. The problem of sexism isn’t a women’s issue. It’s a matter of ensuring personal freedom for everyone regardless of sex.

And a lot of your pals (and even your heroes) aren’t going to help in this department. Most of them will be embarrassed to talk about it, because they’re too afraid of saying something that will disqualify them from successfully being a man, based on their current strategy.

If you believe you should have the freedom to pursue happiness within your rights, it’s only sensible to believe in that freedom for everyone, and that means making sexism your problem too, even if it never seemed like it was.

At the root of it all is our lingering capacity for violence — the unfortunate biological reality that even a physically unremarkable man can knock out the average woman, if he thinks it will help him more than it will harm him.

So from the dawn of humanity, whenever there has been a disagreement between a man and a woman, both of them knew from the start — no matter what kind of reason or sense either side brought to the table — which one must eventually back down. Unlike the woman, the man could expect to get his way without having an intelligent argument, without considering the needs of others, without being right at all, without any sensible reason for things to go his way.

This expectation — that power over others is a viable, noble path to happiness — lingers in the way we talk, in the way we define manhood, in the expectations males place on each other. This is especially influential on high-school and college-age males, because they do not yet feel like men, and they believe they’re supposed to.

The forces of civilization and education are very slowly discrediting this stone-age approach to life, and dismantling the power imbalance that has grown around it.

For us to get there, young men need to understand as early in their lives as possible that men have a long history of getting their way for no good reason. This advantage comes, of course, at the expense of fellow human beings, and we need to learn to be aware of it and eliminate it wherever we see it.

Is it your fault? No. But whether you want it or not, you’ve inherited the responsibility of creating a new answer to the ancient question of what it means to be a man. The old answers are no good.

***

Photo by Lisa Schaffer
Randy Hendrix October 3, 2014 at 2:13 pm

Sorry, typo…”15″ years ago.

pragti October 4, 2014 at 7:30 am

DAVID !!!!!I am absuloutely, totally, head over heels in love with this bit of your writing !!! Thanks for penning this down !
Every sentence resonates :)

Cass October 5, 2014 at 3:13 pm

It’s hard to say these things, as a woman, to men, and expect them to make an impact. Thank you <3

D. Wef October 5, 2014 at 6:05 pm

I think you have some well-intentioned words of advice, but where are kids these days supposed to find young male role models to help them build their morals and foundations? There is no easy answer to this. Social Media? TV? Movies? The right ones are few and far between.

Kids, while you are taking Mr. Cain’s words of advice, I ask you to consider how you can plug into your community and reach out to those around you in order to be mentored by someone that is older and wiser.

Reading these life suggestions off a computer screen is a helpful starting point to get kids thinking, but when it comes down to it, there is no accountability for these kids to follow through on the suggestions you offer them.

Maybe I smell the makings of an organization that would provide kids with mentors that can model a positive lifestyle while encouraging them to stay on the right path and provide opportunities for them to succeed in these areas through exciting adventures and character building opportunities.

…oh wait, I think these exist already?

Anyways kids, get plugged in, make things happen, and eventually you’ll look back at high school and say what everyone else says, “man, I was dumb and I did some really dumb stuff, but at least I made the most of it and I am better off today because of it.”

David Cain October 6, 2014 at 3:55 pm

I might be way off base but it sounds like you’re talking about church. Community is a good thing, but IMHO it has a greater effect when we don’t conflate it with ancient mythology or prescriptive morality. I think we can get all the benefits of community and role-modeling without appealing to ancient religious institutions for guidance.

Ted October 5, 2014 at 7:49 pm

Dear young men, pay no attention to neutered Uncle Tom’s such as the author of this self loathing diatribe. Stand tall and proud. You have nothing to be ashamed of.

David Cain October 6, 2014 at 3:26 pm

I was pretty clear that masculinity is nothing to be ashamed of.

For everyone else: the above is a pretty typical comment from a so-called “Men’s rights advocate” — all ad hominems and no real point made. I urge anyone to google “Men’s rights” and hear them out, and see if it makes sense to you. They may have legitimate grievances somewhere in there, but they just can’t seem to separate them out from name-calling and misogyny.

Alex Harvey October 15, 2014 at 2:47 am

I suspect Ted is reacting to this paragraph here:

“So from the dawn of humanity, whenever there has been a disagreement between a man and a woman, both of them knew from the start — no matter what kind of reason or sense either side brought to the table — which one must eventually back down. Unlike the woman, the man could expect to get his way without having an intelligent argument, without considering the needs of others, without being right at all, without any sensible reason for things to go his way.”

I wanted to fall of my chair laughing.

To understand just just how wrong, how sexist it is, replace “woman” with “man” and “man” with “woman” and imagine a man wrote the text (well, a man did write the text). If you did that, you’d doubtlessly be appalled by a shocking misogyny, and probably want the author locked up.

You will understand, then, that what you have written is misandrist apologetics.

And aside from that, it’s just baseless, factually incorrect, nonsense.

“Since the dawn of humanity…” – are you an anthropologist, or a psychologist? How on earth did you arrive at this view? How could you possibly support it? What do you know about stone age cultures? Anything at all?

Power dynamics, over here in the real world, can go in either direction. How does this help a man who finds himself in a relationship with a woman who in fact the one who is controlling, or irrational, or bullying? Where does this advice lead then?

uncephalized October 17, 2014 at 2:53 pm

David: MRAs (I don’t consider myself one, but I do read their material from time to time), like all groups, have their share of evangelistic dittoheads. It doesn’t mean some of the movement’s points aren’t valid.

Where their arguments are strongest IMHO are where they are arguing against the extremes of feminism–these extremes do exist, they are unfortunately not as rare as you seem to believe (the internet overflows with hatred in all directions), and some of them gleefully advocate violence towards men. Some of the most widely-cited radfems (who are looked upon as heroes by many avowed feminists) read like genocidal maniacs, if you dig into their material a little. Like it or not, these attitudes sometimes leak back into the mainstream.

Some of them *are* mainstream. Like the idea that men can’t be raped, or the false notion that all (or even nearly-all) domestic abuse and partner violence is committed by men against women (it’s not at all clear that it is). Or that sexual abuse of boys isn’t a problem on the same order of magnitude as abuse of girls. Or that underage boys who are statutory-raped by their teachers are “lucky” and should “shut up and stop complaining about it because she’s hot, yo” (this one mostly seems to come from other men), rather than being victims of an adult sex offender, which they are by any fair standard. Or that women are the ones who should most fear violence in their daily lives, when men are the vast majority of victims of violent crimes and murder (and also the perpetrators; it’s not a simple problem!). Or that men don’t have body image issues, or emotional problems (or maybe even emotions at all!), and that sexualization and objectification of men in media doesn’t exist or isn’t an issue. (We do! It does! It is!) Or that we’re all fat, bumbling idiots that need to be saved from our own moronitude by competent, beautiful women (a favorite and successful trope of the sitcom industry for decades–and sexist in both directions, in several ways).

Then there are the millions of men sent to fight in war against their wills; the discrepancies in prison sentences for identical crimes; society-wide acceptance for the mutilation of infant male genitals when similar procedures on baby girls are (correctly) considered barbaric crimes, boys falling behind girls in graduation rates at all levels of education, the suicide gap… the list goes on. These are not made-up problems, nor is this an exhaustive list. And feminism, understandably, because it is *primarily about women*, does not tend to address or even acknowledge them.

So, long post short, I believe there is a place for men’s rights advocacy. But I try not to tolerate bigotry against anyone, regardless of their junk. And I certainly don’t begrudge women the success and equality they’ve achieved in recent decades, nor do I deny there are areas in that regard that still need serious improvement. But inequality is not a one-way street, and *everybody* deserves recognition and support in their struggles.

David Cain October 19, 2014 at 11:39 am

Thank you for sharing this comment. I agree with you, and I don’t know if you’re implying that I contradicted any of what you’re saying in this article, or if you just want to make these points clear to people. In a similar way that the word feminism has picked up unfortunate (and maybe unshakeable) connotations of misandry, so has the phrase “Men’s Rights.”

In fact, I think the men’s rights movement is much more imperiled by their extremists than feminism — there just seem to be a greater proportion of them. And the phrase’s connotations are so bad I would never call myself a Men’s Rights advocate, even though there are absolutely serious issues that need fighting for, as you mention. I think the reason for this is that feminism is older and more refined and better understood now on a universal basis than what we today call the Men’s Rights movement, and I hope we see a similar refinement with the message from men’s rights.

uncephalized October 21, 2014 at 1:36 pm

Definitely the clarity thing. And it wasn’t really clear from your comments that you weren’t throwing out the man-babies with the bath water. Just checking. :-)

Anon October 15, 2014 at 4:19 am

Troll alert

Norman October 6, 2014 at 8:57 am

David, will you be writing a similar article for females to convince them that men are not all rapists, murderers, misogynists, wife(or partner)-beaters, twits, etc, In other words, will you tell women not to believe all those lies and myths that the feminist ideologists relentlessly propagate every hour of the day through the media, TV, in uni campuses, in soaps, and so on?

David Cain October 6, 2014 at 3:32 pm

I guess I don’t see much evidence that most women think all men are rapists and murderers. Do you actually think that’s true?

I certainly don’t agree with everything said under the flag of feminism — a minority of feminists have sexist attitudes towards men. But the idea that the typical woman thinks the typical man is a bad person is pretty ridiculous.

L Hello October 6, 2014 at 10:46 am

What utter tosh and piffle. Please provide even one single link to an article where a writer has genuinely meant that they think all men are rapists etc. If you can’t please call back under the rock from whence you came.

David Cain October 6, 2014 at 3:42 pm

I’m guessing this is a response to Norman above? To reply to a particular comment, use the reply button under their avatar.

Ben Andrews October 6, 2014 at 1:18 pm

Firstly, I think it’s great you’re writing about these things. This is a topic that the media just ignores – there are hundreds of women writing about what it is to be a woman but very few talking about masculinity. They tend to focus on the bad aspects of masculinity like arrogance, sexism etc…

Where the article falls down for me is that you don’t really say what it is to be a man. When you talk about the pickup movement – most of those guys seem pretty lost to me. They’ve grown up in a world without role models where your level of masculinity is determined by how attractive women find you. As a result, they’ve created their own role models who aren’t always ethical.

You talk about violence but your analysis is a bit daily mail. If a woman abuses a man verbally that’s considered ok – people would probably roll their eyes. If a woman abuses a man physically, he’s considered a wimp. If a woman abuses a man verbally and physically for months, the moment he hits her, he’s a monster. These attitudes come from the deep seated sexism in our society – that naturally paints women as innocent victims. We should be trying to root out all sexism and violence (emotional and physical) rather than just sexism against women.

It would be great if you could write an article called “How to become man” that was completely positive and focussed no what it meant to be a man and how to get there.

For anyone who’s looking to fully realise their masculinity, I’d recommend this course:

http://www.menspsychology.com/product-mindos.php

In my opinion it provides an amazing insight into what it is to be a man and how to get there.

David Cain October 6, 2014 at 3:41 pm

I thought the subtext of the article is pretty clear: to “be a man” doesn’t necessarily mean anything specific. It doesn’t really mean anything except “be masculine.” I think it should be up to every individual to decide to what degree they want to embody or admire masculinity. Traditionally, males are under pressure to act masculine, and quite often masculinity is conflated with disrespect for both women and other men.

All males must come to terms with masculinity as a concept and figure out where it fits in their lives. This article is not anti-masculine and doesn’t deny that there is sexism against men as well.

Norman October 6, 2014 at 3:43 pm

L Hello: I never said that the author had any links in his article to 3rd party sites. You have also, naturally, had nothing to say about the relentless feminist propaganda I have pointed out to.

“If you can’t please call back under the rock from whence you came.” That is not a comment, it is the language(!) of trolls (i.e. those people who can’t face the reality, won’t debate, and instead resort to ranting and ignorant insults).

Tallgirl1204 October 6, 2014 at 11:21 pm

Norman, you may be new to David’s blog. I encourage you to spend some time with his writing. He generally keeps things very positive, and addresses both men and women as equals, capable of judging each other’s intent as individuals, not lumping them together with labels (a habit that he explains in a post on things he recommends stopping doing, such as, well, lumping people together with labels– he uses the term “ad hominem” to describe this.

I encourage you to re-read what you just wrote. Perhaps the person who responded to you in a manner you found offensive misunderstood what you were trying to say. Perhaps you did not entirely understand them. Could you try regarding that person as an individual, and try to write something that honors their request that you provide a link to an article that “female ideologists relentlessly propagate every hours”? Because that’s how I read that comment.

And yes, I agree with you that asking you to crawl back under a rock wasn’t fair or kind either, but if you could take the high road and let that go so that we can understand your concern, that would be really helpful. Thanks.

Liam October 6, 2014 at 7:30 pm

Hey, I just read this on the independents facebook page and I just really wanted to tell you how fantastic I think this is. At 24 I’ve learned all this by now, but it certainly would have helped me a lot over the last 10 years or so to hear this kind of thing at 15. This is honestly pure gold. Even though it’s perfectly in line with my own thinking and I keep fairly up to date on the gender equality debate and read a lot of feminist journalism I’ve never come across anybody actually putting all of these ideas down and in such a frank, honest and male friendly way to boot. This really is the way to get men involved in gender equality. A bit more stuff like this and a little less overt ‘feminist’ man bashing (which only serves to alienate men from the feminism movement) and we might actually get somewhere with gender equality. This is exactly what we need in the media to create a more enlightened, educated, equal and ultimately happier population. Keep up the good work!

Chris Boyd October 7, 2014 at 1:24 am

I’m associated with the Mankind Project, it’s a mens organisation that strongly advocates that men need to man-up and not in a way that is antifemanist.

Norman October 7, 2014 at 10:01 am

Chris: Trying to feminise boys and men to make them submissive to the feminist agendas is not a new concept. In the UK, the conditioning of boys starts from the nursery age (cbeebies, etc.).

That is most likely why the project you belong to (Mankind) exists mainly in countries where anti-men feminist laws and agendas are the strongest (New Zealand, Australia, Canada, USA, South Africa, UK, etc.).

The organisations Mankind keeps company with reveals the purpose of its endeavors. Quoting from your website: “Men and women from many associated and like-minded communities shared space where all were welcome….Woman Within, Women in Power, A Band of Brothers, Boys to Men, Shadow Work, etc.”

David Cain October 7, 2014 at 3:06 pm

Can you be more specific about the “anti-men feminist laws” you’re referring to? Because I don’t think anybody else can understand what you’re talking about from what you’re saying.

MrHare October 7, 2014 at 4:27 am

As usual, a thought provoking, well considered and articulate article. I’d just take issue with one thing:

“The forces of civilization and education are very slowly discrediting this stone-age approach to life, and dismantling the power imbalance that has grown around it.”

We actually have good reasons to think that stone age societies were and are considerably less misogynistic than more recent ones. Most of the misogyny in our modern world derives from the Abrahamic religions.

David Cain October 10, 2014 at 4:24 pm

This is a good point and I didn’t mean to malign our pre-agriculture ancestors. The greatest force in misogyny has always been iron-age religion.

Caite October 7, 2014 at 7:46 am

Thank you for this piece. Men and Women, just be accountable, however that resonates for you. As you lean towards this you will eventually see, feel and be the difference. Check out The Mankind Project and The Woman Within organisations as one possible platform.

Bettina October 7, 2014 at 9:23 am

Any article that pushes us to learn, educate – to evolve – is good for every gender. I am a female and I love the male gender. I have been mentally and verbally abused by a number of males and physically beaten by a man. And I still love men. Because I know in my heart of hearts that these abusers are not representative of the whole. I have done a lot of self-examination, studying, and reading of articles, just like this one, that have helped me understand gender issues and move forward. I think this article shows great insight into helping pinpoint problems early on so that positive changes can be made. Thank you, David, for your insights.

Matt October 7, 2014 at 12:46 pm

What a load of unhelpful crap. This doesn’t tell a young person anything about how to be a man. It explains how not to be a sexist, misogynistic, a-hol, but it seems like the author feels that all young people are destined to become that. Some youth actually have or find good role models. Yes they exist in person, in literature, heck even in comics. Honoring other people (which covers your entire article), honoring your word, being honest, being loyal, being compassionate and empathetic. Do those things and you will not only be a “man” you’ll be a better human. Most of this is simple, some of it is not easy.

David Cain October 7, 2014 at 3:00 pm

I’m arguing for the same things you are. I just don’t think that being loyal, compassionate, or empathetic have anything specifically to do with males or masculinity. What does it mean to be a man in your opinion?

Matt October 7, 2014 at 3:49 pm

I think I laid it out. If you are a good human being you’ll be a good man and vice versa. It’s really that simple. I suppose you could add “be protective” to the list, but most women are protective as well, so again it applies to everyone. My issue is what you wrote seemed much more limited in scope, more “how to treat women appropriately” than how to be a man. And it seemed to assume that all young men look at women the way you laid it out. They don’t.

David Cain October 7, 2014 at 4:02 pm

I don’t think we disagree here. The whole point of the article is that all that is really required to be a good man is to be a good person. Yet young men will still face pressure to “be a man” in ways that are conflated with sexism and the belittlement of others. I wanted to tell them what I wish I’d been told in regards to how to respond to that pressure when they encounter it.

Kenoryn October 7, 2014 at 3:53 pm

Perhaps he should have said, “Don’t be negative and judgmental about the work of a complete stranger just because it doesn’t happen to stack up with your personal notions of what that work should have looked like. If you do that, people might think you’re whiny and rude. Instead, try to consider it for the value it does have, whether to you or to others, and perhaps offer constructive criticism if you feel it will be useful.” What do you think? ;)

Janet October 7, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Can you get rid of the how to save the world wallpaper as it doesn’t display on mobile devices. Thanks.

David Cain October 7, 2014 at 3:02 pm

What kind of phone/browser do you have?

janet October 8, 2014 at 12:38 am

Safari on ageing iPhone. Thanks again

Janet October 9, 2014 at 12:45 am

Now I’m on a laptop, I’m not seeing how to save the world wallpaper at all, but when I go back to the phone, it still displays as a background to the text which effectively makes the text unreadable. Hopefully it’s just a problem affecting me and everyone else is ok.

Harry October 8, 2014 at 6:13 am

David, your article is very good up to about 2/3 of the way through, where it gets quite patchy. The first section is all about maintaining your individuality, not feeling you have to fit in with historical norms of masculinity and not being sexist. Fine, great, freedom and positivity all round.

Then it says “Some of the very normal expectations that will be placed on you as a male… to be tough and stolid….are keeping even the most enlightened parts of this world less hospitable for women than for you. Learn to recognise and violate these expectations.” What’s wrong with being tough and stolid if that works for you and is how you best relate to the world? Being tough, without being aggressive is a fine line to tread, but the world will be a better place if people (men and women) are allowed to be tough. They should be neither required nor condemned for being so. As for stolidity, some people are stolid, that’s how they best deal with their emotions. Tom Golden puts this forward as a fairly natural attribute in many (but not all) men. If it doesn’t adversely affect others, what’s the problem?

You then say “We need new norms”, but I thought we were trying to break the previous norms so that men aren’t judged according to a fixed idea of masculinity. Why do we want to introduce new norms by which anyone is judged?

The bit about men’s “lingering capacity for violence” is also dubious. A capacity for violence isn’t dependent on sex and there’s a worrying double standard in as much as society and the law view violent men very differently from violent women. The rule should be that all violence is condemnable. An act of violence isn’t less of a problem because the person committing it isn’t part of a group which is seen as having a predisposition for violence.

This, however, is absolutely spot on as an analysis of the source of a lot of problems: “This expectation – that power over others is a viable, noble path to happiness – lingers…”

David Cain October 10, 2014 at 4:20 pm

I never said there’s nothing wrong with being tough and stolid, but that it is harmful to demand that all young men act tough just to be accepted by others. People need to be allowed not to be stolid. Boys grow up thinking they should be ashamed if someone ever sees them cry.

And I certainly didn’t say that violence is something of which only males are capable. I was just describing the biological root of male privilege. It clearly does have something to do with our sexual dimporphism, and the power advantage that this gives to the male sex, even in an era where violence is (usually) reviled. The law does, in some cases, view male violence differently than female violence, and I don’t support that.

Harry October 13, 2014 at 3:31 am

I agree, it is “harmful to demand that all young men act tough just to be accepted by others.” I think it could be equally harmful to demand that men reject traditional masculine virtues. They are still virtues after all. This is a fine line to tread but I think you step over it slightly when you say that “young men should learn to recognise and violate these expectations” [of toughness and stolidity] and that failing to do so risks “passing nasty energy on”.

Overall the tone of your article is very positive, but I think you risk making a common mistake of destroying traditional masculinity (virtues and all) under the banner of freeing ourselves from an old norm and then promptly putting a new norm in its place. You explicitly say “we need new norms”. If we’re not careful, these new norms will be no less restrictive, but much harder to achieve given (most) men’s natural way of dong things. Why not abandon all “norms”, for both men and women, and simply judge everyone on their impact on the world and people around them?

Kevin October 8, 2014 at 9:45 pm

Great article in a lot of ways. My 15-year-old self would have appreciated a lot of it. Except for the end. Having a physically abusive mother who had problems with men gave me a different perspective on gender and power. Not a good one, which I’m still working through. Not all women are weak, and not all men are powerful. I appreciate your article, but there are a lot of men out there with a different experience that is never acknowledged by mainstream culture. But we’re still here. Thanks. 90% was on target.

Andy October 9, 2014 at 11:55 am

I have been thinking a lot about feminism lately and agree with most of their ideals. I think it has been a necessary and positive movement. I do wonder if they have outgrown their name though. Most people seem to agree these days that women should have equal rights as men even the men’s rights groups. It sounds to me like they are reacting to feminism as if it is a supremacy organization and that is looking to make all men villains. I wonder if we have reached a point as society to have a new gender equality movement under a different name. Although I guess “moderates” don’t often successfully mobilize.

Norman October 9, 2014 at 1:36 pm

What is sinister about the so-called feminism movement is not their published ideals, but, as you have rightly observed, theiir agenda to alienate and denigrate men by using the government and state departments, the schools, the law and the media.

The feminist ideologists want to see men’s blood everywhere. Nothing less will suffice for them.

David Cain October 10, 2014 at 4:12 pm

I have been thinking a lot about feminism lately and agree with most of their ideals. I think it has been a necessary and positive movement. I do wonder if they have outgrown their name though.

I think so. You can see from some of the critical comments here that many men think feminism is out to get them, that they’re just the other side of a great boys-against-girls struggle. There are feminists who are supremacists, for sure, but that’s definitely the exception. I think the word has picked up adversarial connotations and they’re going to be hard to get rid of. I think the f-word also implies, to many, that sexism is specifically a women’s issue rather than an issue of universal decency and fairness between humans.

Daniel Hodgson October 9, 2014 at 1:53 pm

This is a poisonous article. It basically tells young boys it’s fine to give up and become effeminate if they can’t handle the competitive aspect of life.

Your notion that men and women are exactly the same, just with different genitalia, is one that can be disproved by science. Men and womens brains are wired completely differently for evolutionary purposes, and to deny this is indicative of your own insecurities. Unfortunately, you can write reasonably well, and so you will probably set off some young minds on the wrong path due to this. I also believe you are so insecure that you completely fail to see this, and believe you are doing “the right thing” as all cultural marxist types believe.

No, I am not an MRA, a red pill advocate or a far-right nut, I’m just a guy who is also struggling to find his place in this world (and somewhat succeeding). But one thing I will never do is give up.

The sooner these young boys you have targeted in your article realise life IS just like school, and life IS a competitive jungle and not a very pleasant place, the sooner they can come to realise that they DO have to be the “stereotypical” men you chastise in your article. And no, watching football on the weekend or growing a silly moustache is not manly in the slightest.

David Cain October 10, 2014 at 4:04 pm

I think you are reading a lot into this article that’s not there. I am not discouraging masculinity, or ambition, or competition.

I don’t chastise stereotypical men, just sexism wherever it’s defended as a bastion of masculinity. Obviously I don’t agree that young men have to be stereotypical males, or that life is just like high school. That’s ridiculous. Competition is a part of life, of course, but it doesn’t require sexism or alpha male posturing.

David October 9, 2014 at 5:12 pm

“They’re probably not people you’ll want to trade places with in ten years.”

Ouch, and I thought I was a decent guy?

David Cain October 10, 2014 at 3:58 pm

I’m sure you are! Yeah, that line came off all wrong, and I removed it. I just meant that as a HS student it sometimes seems like other people are ahead of you in terms of development, but that there’s no reason to believe those same people are ahead of you in life in the long term.

gael blanchemain October 10, 2014 at 10:22 am

I really loved this article.
And I’m glad you had the courage to step in this place of hurt (based on the comments, you hit a sore spot) to speak your own voice.
Evolving as a gender will require more than expecting women to define manliness for us or, on the other extreme, perpetuating neanderthalian habits for fear of being overthrown by females. A real, solid change will involve domesticating our fears, mainly.

Like you, I have no idea what being a man should be, not for lack of personal values, but for lack of heritage. And I don’t mind building that art from scratch, I have what it takes, so do you, apparently.

David Cain October 10, 2014 at 4:05 pm

Thanks Gael. It is a really sore issue on all sides, which I think means there’s a lot of talking still to do.

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Roberto October 12, 2014 at 11:06 pm

David, great article to spark some thought in our youth. Lately I’ve been questioning masculinity in the 21st century, and am at odds with what it is and what (I believe) it should be.

As a male in my early 30’s, I’m of the believe that men need to be strong for the better of their selves, families, and communities. Obviously, I don’t mean just physical strength, which sadly is the only “strength” our western society values. The strengths I allude to are mental, emotional, spiritual, and of course, physical. While I agree with your statements that young men should avoid “fitting in” for it’s own sake, I think it’s important to try and fit in, at least to the extent of being able to understand differing points of view / life experiences.

It takes mental strength to try and understand others, to go beyond our urges and avoid regrettable situations. It takes spiritual strength to uphold moral values, to face life’s storms, and to go above ourselves. It takes emotional strength to face adversity, to weather crises, and to expose (and enjoy!) your own humanity. It takes physical strength to keep yours safe and stay healthy for them.

I wholeheartedly disagree, though, with your statement that men and women are equal (besides gender). Our sexuality is our greatest differentiator and will remain so for a long time; assuming we’re all just people is an altruistic approach, but what’s not made equal cannot be equal. Yes, men and women should have equal social status. Yes, we should treat each other as we’d like others to treat us. Yet our physiology will continue to mould our psyches differently, making us react and behave in unequal patterns. That, of course, is not an excuse to subjugate anyone.

Young men: being a man is not about being superior, but about being willing and able to step in when those who depend on you need it.

Keep the debate going and thank you for this article!

Stephen October 13, 2014 at 5:31 am

An interesting perspective on a complex issue.

Natalie Moss October 14, 2014 at 5:22 am

This is one of the most important articles i’ve read in a long time. As someone else said – it’s such a difference for a male to express these sentiments and to make a push for that real culture change. It’s true that it’s for the benefit of all, none of us what to live in oppressive constructs. While more prominent male figures are getting vocal about it – there is still a lack of this kind of practical real world guidance. This article is articulate and gets to the points. Really well done. Two thumbs up !

Norman October 14, 2014 at 8:41 am

“None of us want to live in oppressive constructs”. Yup… However, 64% of public service employees in the UK are female. Over three quarters of teachers employed in primary schools and the NHS workforce are female. Four fifths of social enterpise/third sector jobs go to females.

Single mothers get to keep the child in so-called family courts without sweat, plus they get to keep all the child benefits even if the father is “allowed” to look after the child for X days every week.

If a woman cries “rape”, her word is taken as 100% true by the CPS. If the allegation is proven not to be true, the woman can get away with her false allegation with impunity and without her name being exposed. While the alleged rapist’s life gets destroyed.

Now, who is the opressed here and who is being discriminated against?

Anita October 14, 2014 at 9:41 am

Great article David. Have you heard of Dr.Arne Rubinstein? He was nominated “Australian of the Year” in 2008 for his groundbreaking work with male adolescents. Your sentiments mirror what Dr.Rubinstein is doing here in Australia, running some very important programs for our boys especially. Check it out.
Oh, and by the way, if we have such strong anti-men feminists and agendas here in Australia, can the gentleman who stated this explain why Dr.Rubinstein’s programs have had such overwhelming support and interest from our communities??

Angela October 14, 2014 at 9:55 am

fantastic article which says so well so many of the things I believe. thank you for that.

Anonymous October 15, 2014 at 9:07 am

I’d like to inject some reality here, and because it’s real, it’s not politically correct.

I had a strong mother and a weak father. My mother was a cruel, irrational, angry person. She was a classical misandrist. She repeated over and over the story of how her cruel rejection of a man who loved her caused him to suicide. The relationship between my parents was characterised by the psychological violence inflicted on my father by my mother. I remember many of the fights, because she made no effort to hide her temper from her young children. Often they started because my dad tried to make us clean our teeth. She hated that because she had bad teeth. I remember once my dad asked me to clean my teeth, then I heard a crash and shriek as she smashed a glass in the kitchen.

Then one day he hit her. This was after at least 10 years of this abuse. Do I blame him? No, I don’t. The only question, in my mind, is how he managed to control himself for 10 years. And he only did it once.

As a young adult I struggled with masculinity. That’s because I am effeminate. By and large girls liked me, but never were attracted – despite the fact that I was reasonably good looking.

My life has taught me that, without some masculinity, men are not attractive to women. And that’s the unfortunate, politically incorrect, reality.

In my 30s I had my first girlfriend, a girl 10 years younger. She was highly intelligent, highly sexual, and somewhat intrigued by a shy, 31 year old virgin. It wasn’t a serious relationship, and wasn’t ever meant to be.

I learnt a few things from this very sophisticated young woman. For instance, I should go to the gym because yes, physique actually counts for a lot. But I also learnt about some of her prejudices – she would never consider as a boyfriend a man who wasn’t taller than her.

This is very, very common. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it, as far as I can see. Men are attracted to women who are smaller than them; women are attracted to men who are bigger. It’s evolution, and it’s never going to change. Yes there will be exceptions. Of course, there will be homosexual relationships, atypical relationships, people with fat fetishes, men who like older women, etc. All sorts of variations. But as a rule, men will be the dominant sex.

And sexually, she needed to be dominated. Which was true of all subsequent girlfriends I’ve had too.

It’s important to be aware that most women aren’t feminists. People are people and they care about things like making enough money to pay the bills; looking after their children; finding someone who will love them, and not leave them later for a younger woman.

My second relationship lasted 5 years. As with my first, she had the prejudice that a man absolutely must be taller, she also needed to be sexually dominated, and she needed someone who earnt a lot of money.

My second girlfriend was a very spoilt girl from China, with “Little Emperor Syndrome”. I loved her, and gave everything to making her happy, but her abusive temper made the relationship very difficult. I estimate that she would start a fight about once every 3 days for the whole 5 years. Most of them were kind of mini-fights. We both knew she was just having a tantrum, and it didn’t mean anything, and she’d be happy again after she got it out of her system, usually an hour or two later.

Other times it was more serious. She’d smash a lamp. Or throw something across the room. You know, just out of the blue. As the list of ways in which she felt I’d let her down grew. I still loved her – it was just her quirky personality, so I thought.

Of course, over 5 years, there were times when I couldn’t take this any more and I’d also become really, really angry. And naturally if I a man gets angry enough, a woman half his size is going to be scared. Maybe this happened about 5 times in the 5 years. I’d hit a wall, or throw my keys at the ground. About 5 really big fights.

Feminism enters the story when I tried to get help for the relationship. The female relationship counsellor immediately concluded that I was domestically violent and recommended group therapy. My girlfriend thought this was crazy, but I really wanted to fix the relationship, so I went along with it.

As a result, I got to meet a whole team of relationship counsellors – as well as some men, including some who had real violence issues and then a few others like myself who clearly didn’t, but were also doing whatever they could to fix their relationship.

Firstly I saw a psychologist – part of the process. I explained the whole relationship to a woman who clearly had no interest in listening to what violent men had to say. And I was astounded that the stories of what I’d endured in terms of emotional and physical violence from my partner, initiated by my partner, just meant nothing to her at all. She’d heard it all, and dismissed it all out of hand, a thousand times before. I think, frankly, she just assumed I was lying. After all, I’m a man. Men are by definition violent, right? And here I was seeking help for domestic violence? Next. At one point, I do remember she shrugged and said half-heartedly, “Oh well, perhaps your girlfriend should seek help too?” That was the closest I got to any acknowledgement that there could be two sides to it.

I told the stories to two other counsellors and the reactions were approximately the same, although not quite as rude or insensitive. I was asked a long list of bizarre questions. Aside from obvious questions like “Have you ever hit your girlfriend, shown a weapon, threatened her, etc” where I could say “no” there were questions like: Had I ever had sex with my girlfriend while she was asleep? That’s rape, did you know? I’m serious. As it happens, I’d had sex with her while she was asleep often, just as she’d also woken me up for the same reason. The sex in that relationship was really good. The sex actually continued for six month even after we’d broken up. But seriously, they said that was violence against women. Have you ever criticised your partner? Criticised her appearance? Criticised her clothing? It’s really hard to imagine anyone wouldn’t find they were violent, according to this insane list.

In this group meeting we were taught to aspire to a kind of monk-like morality. And always the most important point was rammed home – the fight is always your fault. Blaming your partner means you’re not owning the violence.

Suffice to say I stopped going after a few sessions, and only because I realised my girlfriend just wasn’t interested in fixing the relationship, because she was cheating anyway.

But my god, did I get to understand just how distorted this “violence against women” meme really is – how much damage feminism has already caused.

There are almost always two sides to any kind of abusive relationship. Feminists want to address this by making everything about the men.

I’m now happily married to my third girlfriend by the way. She’s not a feminist either, and we’re very happy.

Much of the article above is good advice. It’s a shame that at the end it degenerates into unhelpful feminist apologetics. Stone age culture was egalitarian, by the way. For over a million years, humans and their ancestors lived as hunter-gatherers in a mostly egalitarian society, if with very, very clearly defined gender roles. Learning to be a man was something that society took very seriously, with long, complicated initiation ceremonies, as men passed on the secrets of being a man from generation to generation, for millions of years.

The “patriarchy” that feminists make such a fuss about is just a blip on this ancient prehistory.

Men evolved to be hunters and women evolved to be child-bearers and gatherers. Of course, it’s not quite as simple as this, and the species is still evolving, mutations and variations being thrown up always, but trying to force men and women to be “equals” isn’t very helpful if by being “equals” it means denying and not understanding your evolved instincts.

There’s a great book about relationships and it’s a classic for good reason: Men are from Mars; Women are from Venus. I found it very enlightening.

Gary October 19, 2014 at 4:26 pm

“Think of women as being just like you…”

Except that they are not “just like you.”

Diana October 19, 2014 at 11:25 pm

I stumbled onto this site through the a link to “your lifestyle has already been designed article” and just wanted to tell you what an amazing read it was. It turned so many of the things I was already feeling while working in an office job into coherent tangible thoughts.
This article is also amazing and so so important. I also admire how patiently you replied to the first couple of MRAs, I don’t think I could ever interact with them without succumbing to giant eye rolls. Anyway I’m hooked on your writing and going to go binge read some more.

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