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The miseducation of young men, part one

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by Seth Joseph

We lie to young men. We do it so much and in so many ways.

Wishful thinking, perhaps? We all need that from time to time a polite side-stepping of the truth can be a necessary lubrication, an oil in grinding gears. But when it comes to women, and particularly what we teach about dating, the lies and half honest answers we feed our young men can do quite a lot of harm in the long term. Let’s eschew convention for a moment and look at some of these well-meaning fibs up close shall we? Men get so little help in this department, have so much expected of them, and have so much happiness and fulfillment at stake.

“Just Be Yourself”

The absolute worst thing you can tell a young, struggling man is to just be passive. And yet, society repeats these feel-good mantras ad nauseam: Accept the way you are. You are good enough without effort. You’ll get what you want passively. Here is your participation trophy. Some day, if you just wait around the love you deserve will just fall from the fucking sky. And so, when it comes to rejection, the standard acceptable advice we give to young men is to “just be yourself”.

And there is still a nugget of decent advice there in this tired maxim: don’t sell yourself out for a relationship. However, the suggestion that a man just being himself will help him gain control of his failing romantic life is not only ridiculous, it is actively harmful.

The truth is, unlike women, men are not sexually valuable just for existing and being decent. From a biological standpoint, men are not inherently worth anything. To put it crudely: sperm is cheap. To be worth a damn men have to learn how to be exceptional through hard, intensive struggle, deep and difficult growth and reflection, and years of discipline and willpower.

If you look through history books, you will find countless stories of men building boats and sailing off to distant shores. You won’t find similar stories involving boats full of women. Why not? The popular answer is “oppression”, but this is just another feminist-inspired lie. The very concept that women were what? Held in chains? Deprived of boat building tools under threat of violence? Had their budding shipyards intentionally sabotaged throughout all of history?

The much simpler truth is that for women throughout human history, sticking around and going with the flow was usually a quite viable path to reproductive success and survival. Women can just “be themselves” and their chances of reproduction wind up still being pretty solid. Men, on the other hand, have had to resort to drastic action in order to have similar chances. But we keep on telling this one-size-fits all nonsense to young men, and it reinforces the warm and fuzzy notion of our current zeitgeist that biological differences in the sexes just don’t exist if we say they don’t, and say it often and loudly enough.

Despite what anyone tells you, yourself just might not make the cut if you are on the bottom 90% of men in terms of natural attractiveness. You have to make yourself valuable: for what you do, build, create, discover. And sometimes, you have to just build a boat and sail away. Waiting for the world to reward you for “who you are inside, is a recipe for disaster if you weren’t lucky enough to be born an elite, top 10% man. Therefore, when struggling, ignore anyone who tells you to “just be yourself”. Often, what they are really telling you is to “just stay in your lane.”

Male Aggression is Problematic.”

Here we come to something of a sensitive topic. It is sensitive not because it is profound or important, but because we as a culture have become hyper-sensitive to the problems and even minor inconveniences that women face.

And it is true, one of the problems women face is dealing with overly aggressive men that they are un-attracted to. Yes, it is a thing. I’m not disputing that. And yet, we as a society have noticed this problem and had an incredible over-reaction to the issue. We teach men that their sexuality, particularly if it is overt in any way, is wrong and evil and hated by the fairer sex. We teach them to be subtle, to wait, to be passive.

And so, in our overcorrection of this problem, we have turned natural male aggression into a huge pariah. We tell young men that women universally despise aggression of any kind, are turned off by forwardness in every situation, and that the mere act of saying hello to a woman on the street makes you somehow worthy of public shaming.

But in reality, male aggression has been one of the prime driving forces of the success of our species, an engine that is at once competitive and uplifting, a way in which fortune favors the bold. Being aggressive about what you want is part of being masculine. Hell, it is part of being a successful person, full stop.

The problem is that some extremes of aggression are wrong, obviously. No one is debating that, so put your pitchforks down feminists. However, there are many forms of assertiveness that are just what the doctor ordered, so to speak, when it comes to dating and women. Instead of taking this wide spectrum view, we have instead lumped any aggression into one all-encompassing, totally negative category. Harassing a woman and saying “hello” to her are put under the same label of “catcalling” without a second thought for nuance. Misreading signals and going in for an unwanted kiss can be lumped in with sexual assault.

But women actually like aggression in men. 100 million + women made very little objection to “50 shades of Gray”, which basically depicts a female rape fantasy. And women have been choosing aggressive, assertive mates for the majority of human history. In fact, the whole reason that aggression still exists in men in the first place has to do with the trait being sexually selected for by, you guessed it, women.

So, we’ve come to a place where male aggressiveness is both highly desirable to women, and also socially unacceptable. It is a place where are faced with a veritable minefield as men. We have to be aggressive, because women actually depend on male aggression. They rely on it to save them from having to make the first move, to risk rejection. In fact, most women enjoy giving up control to some extent. And yet, men are told to hesitate, to ask permission for each move they make, to wait for very explicit, verbal, invitations every step of the way. Anyone with experience knows that asking “can I kiss you” is one of the least sexy things a man can do, and typically kills the romance instantly. Most of us who’ve tried it will tell you that the request itself is a surefire way to turn women off. You can see why so many young men are confused. And all the while we keep telling them that their mere existence is the greatest threat to women.

“Find Your Soulmate”

Renowned poet and laudanum addict Samuel Taylor Coleridge was the first to coin the term “soul-mate” in the early 1800s. Somewhere between then and now we’ve decided that this literary junkie’s one-off moment of poetic fancy is actually supposed to be an integral part of the human experience— that having a soulmate is an intrinsic aspect of life just as part and parcel to humanity as death and taxes.

It starts with “love at first sight.” That’s right young people. When you meet your soulmate, “you’ll just know”. Disengage your brain and follow blindly the beating of your loins…err… I mean heart. Because your initial feelings are what matter most.

Except that soulmates don’t really exist. Sorry, but just like Jesus and Santa Clause the whole idea of soulmates exists only to make you feel better about some ugly reality— in this case, about the fact that most of us spend our lives feeling incomplete, lonely, and without the type of love we feel we deserve. The fact that a great many of us die alone isn’t going away just because it makes you uncomfortable. No, there is no copy of you waiting out there to finish your sentences, to drink exact same mocha-frappa pumpkin-spiced bullshit that you order at Starbucks, to agree with you politically and on how to load the dishes into the dishwasher.

Now, that is not to say that you won’t one day possibly meet a person who you could conceivably live with for forty or fifty years and not murder. That person just might actually exist and be in the cards for you if you are extremely lucky and diligent in your self-development. It might take you a while to figure out who this person is, unless of course you have your head in the clouds expecting a soulmate. Then you might miss them entirely because you are too busy looking for that exact replica of yourself you’ve been told your whole life is the only right choice. The thing you deserve. The thing that everyone gets in the end.

You’ve been built up to expect too much about what is really out there. There is good news, however. In reality, there are millions of women that would probably make stable, kind, loyal, and overall wonderful partners for you. So they like a different football team, prefer Chinese food to Korean food, chew with their mouths open. Stop thinking that some perfect-for-you woman is going to waft into your life and love you the exact way you want to be loved. Only children believe in fairy tales.

Love and partnership are very different things. Stop confusing the two. Work on finding a good woman, not on some mystical facsimile of your innermost being.

“Your Twenties are the Best Time for Dating Around

Romance has its many twists and turns, but society has a vested interest in all sexual roads leading to one central location: marriage.

Marriage has traditionally been a contract. The man does ABC, the woman does XYZ, and the whole civilization, arguably, prospers from the arrangement. But, for better or worse, this contract has not survived the past fifty years. These days, when men enter into a marriage contract, they do so at their own peril. 97% of alimony recipients are women. The great majority divorces are initiated by women. Women receive custody of the children as much as 88% of the time in divorce proceedings. As a man, you are signing a contract that basically allows for half of your stuff to be taken away, to lose your kids, your house, to become a wage slave to pay for your ex-wife’s lifestyle in the case of alimony. In return you get, what, a tax write off? In terms of the actual relationship, there is nothing you can get from a marriage certificate that you can’t get from just living with a woman, loving her faithfully, and being together day in and day out.

This is not to try and denigrate the institution itself, except to say that is has become somewhat of a raw deal for men. That doesn’t mean it isn’t, sometimes, the right thing to do: only that it needs to be considered very carefully. Remember that you are entering into a contract which is virtually all liability and very little benefit, at least from a legal standpoint, and act accordingly. You definitely wouldn’t sign a contract like this in business, or you wouldn’t be in business very long.

The bottom line is that as a man, you should view your commitment as extremely valuable. It is easy to feel, particularly as a young and average looking dude, that women have most of the value when it comes to dating. And that’s simply because when you’re in your twenties, women absolutely have the upper hand. They are at the prime moment of their attractiveness, and the whole world wants them. You, as a young dude, are probably at the least attractive you will ever be. You probably have a beat up car, a job washing dishes, little experience with the wider world, etc. As female attractiveness declines and beauty fades with age, male attractiveness grows in time with maturity, career development, and resources. Now you can start to see why the 20s, for a man, are by far the worst time. You are in much less demand than the women you are trying to court. But this changes in time.

The pressure on young men to settle down at a “reasonable” age can be immense. If you refuse these one-sided terms you are a “man child” who refuses to “man up” and accept “responsibility”. But you must remember that society has a vested interest in strapping a harness on you, in taming you, in pointing your natural male competitiveness and drive in a direction which will benefit the society rather than benefit you yourself.

The thing is, men are sort of hitting their stride in their thirties, and dating opportunities that came few and far between in their awkward, broke 20s are now myriad. Now, the other side of that coin is that if you wait too long to settle down, you’ll probably end up raising some other man’s kid, but that is a topic for another time.

“Women Like Assholes”

This one is a bit different. Instead of a lie told by society to men, this is a lie than men often tell themselves.

After a lifetime of being told “just be yourself”, some men are hit hard by the realization that women are forgoing relationships with them and going instead for tough, assertive, brash men. The “nice guy” with his rose petals and sparkling repertoire of wholesome jokes watches as the girl of his dreams hops in the convertible with a swaggering, boisterous guy known for starting fistfights and doing keg pushups. It is a story as old as time.

“Women just go for jerks” he mumbles to his friends bitterly, and the cycle continues. He develops a long lasting anger that takes him years to let go of. Why? Because he is weak, perhaps somewhat myopic or self-centered, but mostly it is because he has lied to himself about something so central to human existence.

 

Seth Joseph writes about men’s issues with particular emphasis on dating, women, and relationships. He has a book and a blog on the subject.
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Honey Badger Brigade publishes select reader submissions which are in line with our submissions policy. Publication does not constitute endorsement of the statements contained in published posts. Intellectual debate is greatly encouraged. Submissions may be sent to submissions@badgerpod.com Avatar art by Daniel Vancise, dvancise_arts on instagram, vantooner on youtube

  • Quentin Montagne

    Excellently put.

    Though I would dispute the notion than believing in soul-mates is inane : it is a belief, and should be recognized as such, but the danger lies not in believing it (or anything), but in believing that it implies anything about what MUST happen.

    That is something I put to friends of mine not too long ago in the form of a riddle : What is the difference between a romantic and a sentimental ?

    A romantic believes there can be a soul-mate. A sentimental believes he or she will meet their soulmate.

    Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, after all …

  • JasonC5

    The men need further educating and emasculation https://medium.com/@emmalindsay/men-dump-their-anger-into-women-d5b641fa37bc#.inqq0pvtd

    And apparently women don’t have the same tendencies as men for a “dick measuring” contest of sorts and women apparently follow instructions better and can multitask (even though men multitasking is seen as a negative because it’s either ADD or not focusing on completing the task at hand, though scientists have said multi-tasking can be bad for you as well) “instagram.com/p/BNe0fHXAs3z/”

    • http://www.genderratic.com/ Ginkgo

      “And apparently women don’t have the same tendencies as men for a “dick measuring” contest of sorts”
      oh but they do. Go up onto any female space, a feminists blog for instance, and look for the compassion contests to see who is the most caring, the most engaged, the most aware of whoever’s pain it is (of course that whoever has to be in an identified victim group). I call it “tit-swinging”.

    • Noor

      Anyone who thinks women don’t have ‘dick-measuring’ contests needs to go back to high school or at the very least, watch Mean Girls.

      • Noor

        And let’s not forget there’s a reason why the term ‘bridezilla’ exists.

        And then there’s middle-aged gossips, bragging about their children and in some cultures, how much money they make per year.

    • Radium

      The entire purpose of the designer handbag is female dick measuring especially when that handbag was purchased by a man.

  • Noor

    A male feminist former friend put forth that it was not that women are attracted to aggressiveness, but confidence in “bad boys”, and that most self-professed “nice guys” simply lack any confidence. He was wrong about a lot of things, but he was largely right on this.

    My proposition on why women date assholes is that they want a man who will turn away everyone but her, so they stick with him, hoping to change him and reform him into the good family man. Hence, 50 Shades of Grey having an incredibly boring, vapid, plain Jane girl managing to tame and settle down with a smoking-hot billionaire that says he’s not into romance, marriage, or family. (Also in both 50SoG and Twilight, when she gets pregnant, he wants her to get an abortion, but she’s absolutely pro-life and horrified, and he eventually grows to love the baby and be a good father.)

    Also, this perfectly sums up my view of soul mates: https://what-if.xkcd.com/9/

    • http://www.genderratic.com/ Ginkgo

      Noor, I think you are completely right about confidence being the elixir of love. And it’s not confined to romantic situations either. There is always an element of hero worship in every successful leader’s leadership.

      “My proposition on why women date assholes is that they want a man who will turn away everyone but her, so they stick with him, hoping to change him and reform him into the good family man. Hence, 50 Shades of Grey having an incredibly boring, vapid, plain Jane girl managing to tame and settle down with a smoking-hot billionaire that says he’s not into romance, marriage, or family.”
      This “love of a good woman” conversion fantasy informs a lot of straight female interest in gay men, however sublimated it may be. Taken that far it’s insulting but it comes frorm a very good place, the place where young girls see a stray, starving kitten and move heaven and earth to get it set up somewhere.

  • http://www.genderratic.com/ Ginkgo

    “The problem is that some extremes of aggression are wrong, obviously. No one is debating that, so put your pitchforks down feminists.”
    The problem is as you say that women value extreme male aggression when it suits them. That filth Emmeline Pankhurst valued male aggression enough that she went around the streets approaching men like a prostitute to shame them with white feathers into enlisting in a meat grinder war she was shielded from.

  • Radium

    I agree that men have had to do something of value just to have a chance at reproduction, and for women, just being was enough. And I agree that this attitude is the reason why women generally don’t accomplish the things outside of children that society requires. However, we have a generation of young obese women. Most men are not sexually attracted to obese women. Are these young women experiencing the same sense of valuelessness that most young men experience?