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ET on December 20, I knew nothing about Cole before meeting him; he was just a name on a list of boys at a private school outside Boston who had volunteered to talk with me or perhaps had had their arm twisted a bit by a counselor. The afternoon of our first interview, I was running late. As I rushed down a hallway at the school, I noticed a boy sitting outside the library, waiting—it had to be him. He was staring impassively ahead, both feet planted on the floor, hands resting loosely on his thighs.
It was totally unfair, Just some guy who wants his wing wang sucked scarlet letter of personal bias. At 18, he stood more than 6 feet tall, with broad shoulders and short-clipped hair. His neck was so thick that it seemed to merge into his jawline, and he was planning to enter a military academy for college the following fall.
But Cole surprised me. But being around guys was different. He grinned when I pointed that out. Cole and a friend of his, another sophomore, told him to knock it off. They stopped listening to him, too. Nearly every guy I interviewed held relatively egalitarian views about girls, at least their role in the public sphere.
They considered their female classmates to be smart and competent, entitled to their place on the athletic field and in school leadership, deserving of their admission to college and of professional opportunities. They all had female friends; most had gay male friends as well. That was a huge shift from what you might have seen 50, 40, maybe even 20 years ago.
They could also easily reel off the excesses of masculinity. A Big Ten football player I interviewed bandied about the term toxic masculinity. Feminism may have provided girls with a powerful alternative to conventional femininity, and a language with which to express the myriad problems-that-have-no-name, but there have been no credible equivalents for boys. Quite the contrary: The definition of masculinity seems to be in some respects contracting. When asked what traits society values most in boys, only 2 percent of male respondents in the PerryUndem survey said honesty and morality, and only 8 percent said leadership skills—traits that are, of course, admirable in anyone but have traditionally been considered masculine.
When I asked my subjects, as I always did, what they liked about being a boy, most of them drew a blank. All the teenagers I spoke with are identified by pseudonyms. I never really thought about that. You hear a lot more about what is wrong with guys. From May The war against boys.
While following the conventional script may still bring social and professional rewards to boys and men, research shows that those who rigidly adhere to certain masculine norms are not only more likely to harass and bully others but to themselves Just some guy who wants his wing wang sucked victims of verbal or physical violence.
They are also less happy than other guys, with higher depression rates and fewer friends in whom they can confide. According to Andrew Smiler, a psychologist who has studied the history of Western masculinity, the ideal lateth-century man was compassionate, a caretaker, but such qualities lost favor as paid labor moved from homes to factories during industrialization.
In fact, the Boy Scouts, whose creed urges its members to be loyal, friendly, courteous, and kind, was founded in in part to counter that dehumanizing trend. During World War I, women proved that they could keep the economy humming on their own, and soon afterward they secured the vote.
Then, during the second half of the 20th century, traditional paths to manhood—early marriage, breadwinning—began to close, along with the positive traits associated with them.
Today many parents are unsure of how to raise a boy, what sort of masculinity to encourage in their sons. But as I learned from talking with boys themselves, the culture of adolescence, which fuses hyperrationality with domination, sexual conquest, and a glorification of male violence, fills the void. For Cole, as for many boys, this stunted masculinity is a yardstick against which all choices, even those seemingly irrelevant to male identity, are measured. When he had a choice, he would team up with girls on school projects, to avoid the possibility of appearing subordinate to another guy.
During his junior year, he briefly suggested to his crew teammates that they go vegan for a while, just to show that athletes could. We do need fats and salts and carbs that we get from meat. But another reason they all thought it was stupid is because being vegans would make us pussies. Yet, from the get-go, boys are relegated to an impoverished emotional landscape.
Mothers of young children have repeatedly been found to talk more to their girls and to employ a broader, richer emotional vocabulary with them; with their sons, again, they tend to linger on anger. Despite that, according to Judy Y. Chu, a human-biology lecturer at Stanford who conducted a study of boys from pre-K through first grade, little boys have a keen understanding of emotions and a desire for close relationships.
Read: Psychology has a new approach to building healthier men. My conversations bore this out. Boys routinely confided that they felt denied—by male peers, girlfriends, the media, teachers, coaches, and especially their fathers—the full spectrum of human expression. Cole, for instance, spent most of his childhood with his mother, grandmother, and sister—his parents split up when he was 10 and his dad, who was in the military, was often away. Cole spoke of his mom with unbridled love and respect.
His father was another matter. Other boys also pointed to their fathers as the chief of the gender police, though in a less obvious way. A hesitation to talk about … anything, really. We learn to confide in nobody. You sort of train yourself not to feel. Read: How boys teach each other to be boys.
Then, a few weeks into freshman year, Rob heard from a friend that she was cheating on him. When I asked whom he talked to during that time, he shrugged. The only person with whom he had been able to drop his guard was his girlfriend, but that was no longer an option. Girlfriends, mothers, and in some cases sisters were the most common confidants of the boys I met. Among other things, that dependence can leave men unable to identify or express their own emotions, and ill-equipped to form caring, lasting adult relationships.
The thing with my girlfriend. I paid close attention when boys mentioned crying—doing it, not doing it, wanting to do it, not being able to do it. For most, it was Just some guy who wants his wing wang sucked rare and humiliating event—a dangerous crack in a carefully constructed edifice. That worked. Only after multiple interviews did I realize that when boys confided in me about crying—or, even more so, when they teared up right in front of me—they were taking a risk, trusting me with something private and precious: evidence of vulnerability, or a desire for it.
Or, as with Rob, an inability to acknowledge any human frailty that was so poignant, it made me want to, well, cry. While my interview subjects struggled when I asked what they liked about being a boy, the most frequent response was sports. They recalled their early days on the playing field with almost romantic warmth. Perhaps the most extreme example was Ethan, a kid from the Bay Area who had been recruited by a small liberal-arts college in New England to play lacrosse.
So he quit the team; not only that, he transferred. Loyalty is paramount, and masculinity is habitually established through misogynist language and homophobia. From March Caitlin Flanagan on the dark power of fraternities. As a senior in high school, Cole was made captain of the crew team. He relished being part of a unit, a band of brothers.
When he raced, he imagined pulling each stroke for the guy in front of him, for the guy behind him—never for himself alone. But not everyone could muster such higher purpose. I asked him about how his teammates talked in the locker room. That question always made these young men squirm. Cole cut his eyes to the side, shifted in his seat, and sighed deeply. And we call each other pussies, bitches. We never say the N-word, though. Come on! Be tough! Maybe I just try not to dig too deeply.
Although losing ground in more progressive circles, like the one Cole runs in, fag remained pervasive in the language of the boys I interviewed—including those who insisted that they would never use the word in reference to an actual homosexual. Pascoe, than a referendum on his manhood.Just some guy who wants his wing wang sucked
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