I was stocking up on groceries at Fred Meyer when I heard this fretful falsetto. “Honey, look at these ingredients. Oh my God. Check the percentage of trans fats. It’s outrageous!” The fussing, believe it or not, was coming from a man. He was hopping up and down on spindly legs, beckoning his wife excitedly. I quickly moved on, thanking my lucky stars that the spouse had gravitated automatically to the hardware section of the store, and was itching to move on to Home Depot.
Whenever I venture out, I encounter this not-so-new breed of man. Typically, he’ll have a few spoilt, cranky kids in tow, and a papoose strapped to a sunken chest. He’ll be laboring to make the outing to Trader Joe’s a “learning experience” for the brats—one that every other store patron is forced to endure. This generic guy oozes psychological correctness and zero manliness. He’s not necessarily effeminate, mind you. Rather, he’s safely androgynous, and most certainly not guy-like in the traditional sense. As personalities go, he and the wife are indistinguishable.
I’ve often wondered whether decades of emasculation—legal and cultural—have bred these men. It would seem my hunch may have more merit than I imagined. On Halloween, Dr. Thomas Travison and colleagues at the New England Research Institutes in Watertown, Mass., released this hormonal horror story: American men are indeed losing the stuff that makes them mucho.
“A new study has found a ‘substantial’ drop in U.S. men’s testosterone levels since the 1980s.” The average levels of the male hormone have been dropping by an astounding 1 percent a year. A 65-year-old in 1987 would have had testosterone levels 15 percent higher than those of a 65-year-old in 2002. Aging, slouched, pony-tailed hippies, everywhere apparent, look more flaccid, because they are more flaccid.
The reasons for the reduction in testosterone levels remain unclear. A rise in obesity and a decline in smoking have been suggested, since “testosterone levels are lower among overweight people and smoking increases testosterone levels.” The Marlboro Man was certainly manly and fit-looking. Other researchers have implicated estrogen-mimicking chemicals, ubiquitous in the environment.
Conspicuously absent from the report are changes in life experiences over time. These trends are, however, routinely referenced when discussing incidence of this or the other disease or deficiency in women. Breast cancer is said to be associated with the modern woman’s propensity to delay or forfeit childbearing. Osteoporosis is exacerbated by women’s sedentary routines—they do less weight-bearing work than they used to (although in Kazakhstan, women still do plenty plowing).
Boyhood today, for example, means BB guns and “bang-bang you’re dead” are banned. Tykes are required to hack their way through a page-turner like One Dad Two Dads Brown Dad Blue Dads. The smashing success of politically incorrect books such as The Dangerous Book for Boys proves how desperate little boys are to be boys again—the book reintroduces a new generation of youngsters to the joys of catapult-making, knot-tying, stone skimming, astronomy, and much more. (Concocting rocket fuel from saltpeter and sugar is not in the book, but is a lot of fun—or so my husband tells me.)
Boys are hardwired for competition; the contemporary school enforces cooperation. Boys like to stand out; team-work obsessed, mediocre school teachers teach them to fade into the crowd. Boys thrive in more disciplined, structured learning environments; the American school system is synonymous with letting it all hang out.
Sons are more likely to be raised without male mentors, since moms, in the last few decades, are more inclined to divorce (and get custody), never marry, or bear children out of wedlock. The schools have been emptied of manly men and staffed by feminists, mostly lacking in the Y chromosome. Although boys (and girls) require discipline, the rare disciplinarian risks litigation.
Then there are the effects of years of Ritalin. Teachers prefer girls (many narcissistic, feral, female “pedagogues” have even taken to sexually preying on boys). To make boys more like girls, they’ll often insist that they be plied with “Kiddie Cocaine.” Children as young as two are being medicated with a substance whose side effects include liver damage, cardiac arrhythmia, and death. Writing for the PBS’s “Frontline,” Dr. Lawrence Diller, who favors Ritalin, cautions that “despite sixty years of stimulant use with children…some as-yet-undiscovered negative effect of Ritalin still could be found.” (Hampered hormonal levels later in life, perhaps?)
When boys leave secondary school, they discover that society privileges girls in tertiary schools and in the workplace. Why, even girls favor girls. Most swoon over the washed-out, asexual anchor, Anderson Cooper. In TV newsrooms, cherubic-looking, soft-spoken, “girlie-men,” such as Bill Hemmer and Don Lemon are replacing deep-voiced, mucho men. Tom Brokaw, for instance. Women say they look for partners who are “sweet and sensitive.” If they’re having children with men who grow bum-fluff for stubble, then perhaps they’re breeding out testosterone.
Is it at all possible that the feminization of society over the past 20 to 30 years is changing males, body and mind? Could the subliminal stress involved in sublimating one’s essential nature be producing less manly men?
The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis is a delicate homeostatic feedback system, intricately involved in regulating hormones and stress. Has it become the axis of evil in the war on men?
©2006 By Ilana Mercer