The boys of…winter?

There seems to be something twitching in the cultural scalp that’s got so many folks itching about the fate of boyhood.

There’s this little gem from the fellow over at Wondermark which is just a hoot.

But it got me thinking about Hanna Rosin’s recent report in the Atlantic (WARNING: Much stripping of mystery and manners to the crude and obscene throughout):

One of the women had already seen the [porn] photo five times before her boyfriend showed it to her, so she just moved her pitcher of beer in front of his phone and kept on talking. He’d already suggested twice that night that they go to a strip club, and when their mutual friend asked if the two of them were getting married, he gave the friend the finger and made sure his girlfriend could see it, so she wouldn’t get any ideas about a forthcoming ring. She remained unfazed. She was used to his “juvenile thing,” she told me.

Which in turn reminded me of Jeff Minick’s piece in Chronicles (WARNING: much discussion of the restoration of mystery and manners throughout):

We begin by teaching boys from an early age the romance and adventure of life. How did the adolescent who played a high-minded knight-errant evolve into a sullen, nihilistic teenager? How did that same adolescent become the 30-year-old who wears his baseball cap backward, plays more video games than the teenager, and lives with his parents? Boys who come of age watching sex and violence in movies, or the cynicism offered by most television comedies, who listen to loveless music drenched in ugliness and despair, who possess no sense of responsibility or consequence, will likely join Peter Pan’s tribe of Lost Boys. To buck this trend, we must keep a vigilant watch on the culture. To grow men, we must teach our boys heroism, taking our models from literature, movies, and living examples.

Which in turn recalled that this book will be coming out sometime soon:

From his celebrated appearance, hatchet in hand, in Parson Mason Locke Weems’s Life of Washington to Booth Tarkington’s Penrod, the all-American boy was an iconic figure in American literature for well over a century. Sometimes he was a “good boy,” whose dutiful behavior was intended as a model for real boys to emulate. Other times, he was a “bad boy,” whose mischievous escapades could be excused either as youthful exuberance that foreshadowed adult industriousness or as deserved attacks on undemocratic pomp and pretension. But whether good or bad, the all-American boy was a product of the historical moment in which he made his appearance in print, and to trace his evolution over time is to take a fresh view of America’s cultural history, which is precisely what Larzer Ziff accomplishes in All-American Boy.


  1. Jonathan Webb says

    Well played. Freidmanite economics and smaller government will help that bash, maybe.

    Thanks JOB.

    • But Freidman on a smaller scale, I pray…

      Maybe someone could set his grandson up with Wendell Berry’s granddaugther…


      • Jonathan Webb says

        Freidman cared about the poor, he made strong arguments that unconstrained economics were better for everyone. He wasn’t an Ayn Rand guy like Greenspan was. But, I think I know what you mean.

  2. Jonathan Webb says

    These women are all going to be in my harem after the collapse. My vassels they will be unless one of you is stronger.

  3. The Duffer says

    I think Hannah Rosin is a closet woman-hater. She is seemingly incapable of presenting women in a positive light. Although, I sense from her article she is trying to do the opposite.

    • I didn’t want to be the first one to say it, but I’d have to agree.

      Although, perhaps it’s that “material” hate as opposed to a “formal” hate – kind of like the distiction between intentional heresy and accidental heresy. She seems too blinded by the goodies of the sexual revolution to really think about what she’s saying.


      • The Duffer says

        She keeps talking about how the hook-up culture is a sign of widened options for women, and the power of choice, and yet she gives college women only two options:

        1.) become a semen repository and advance your career.


        2.) be a low class hick with a Victorian standard of ethics who only wants to get married and have babies.

        Grrreat! I love being a woman!

        I think, like you say, it’s a “material” hate, that she supports by decreasing hypothetical options for women in order to present a myth of trapped womanhood that can only be overstepped with sex–which in turn, makes it look like women have a shortage of tools to work with in addition to a shortage of options.

        Yes, not thinking about what she’s saying…

        • I really liked this article. I always like The Atlantic’s exploration of gender “issues,” though admitedly they never seem to be as comprehensive as they could be. I’m not familiar with the author’s other writing, but I didn’t pick up on any misogyny here (though I admit I don’t totally understand the distinctions between the different kinds of hate you reference).

          Anyway, it seems to me that all she’s saying is that young women generally tend to be portrayed as victims in the “hook-up culture,” but that, realistically speaking, there is something more pragmatic going on when it comes to their participation in it. There is a degree of self-interest involved, especially for those with “career ambitions.” This is an angle not usually explored in articles about the hook-up culture, and I think it’s plainly true.

          I take issue with the article, though, because I’m not sure that hooking up can be considered a “tactic.” Whereas the “weepy woman” stereotype may not always be true, this other way of looking at it seems to me to be giving too much credit to the woman. It tries too hard to glorify women’s choices as “empowering” or whatever, smashing the bell jar against the wall, looking their own vulnerability square in the face and then “manipulating” it in unexpected – and sometimes hilarious!!!! – ways…or whatever. Whatever she said.

          A “tactic” is “a plan, procedure, or expedient for promoting a desired end or result.” What is the end result of hooking up? It’s pretty basic. I would argue that there will be some manipulation involved, but it will be mostly physical, not mental. I mean, some people don’t want to get married yet, but they get horny, so they hook up. End of story. Glorifying it as a “tactic,” proof of superior female cunning and underestimated feminine wiles, is overwrought. But the idea of women employing overall “romantic strategies” does strike me as being, in some ways, true, and this is something that hook-up articles about women don’t generally tend to concede.

          I agree that she sets up a false dilemma here:

          “They felt trapped between the choice of marrying the kind of disastrous hometown guy who never gets off the couch, and will steal their credit card—or joining a sexual culture that made them uncomfortable.”

          Also, I think she is taking major leap when she implies that the girls who went home to their boyfriends to get married and have babies did so BECAUSE they were uncomfortable with the sexual culture and had some kind of superior moral code.

          “She would always talk about how she couldn’t wait to get married and have babies,” one woman said about her working-class friend.

          Some women WANT to get married and have babies. They want that more than they want other things, because that is what they believe will make them happy. Others WANT to become the Director of Policy Planning at the State Department so they can one day advise budding dictators as to which group of poor, brown people in which developing nation we should drop a bunch of bombs on next. Hey, to each her own.

          I think it’s silly to suggest that “hooking up” is key to career advancement or that marrying young is necessarily a sign of Victorian era ethics. Different women want different things out of life, or they want some things more than others at different times, and yes, a lot of this is determined by class, culture, background. Hence, they have different priorities, differing definitions of “success” and “self-development,” which are probably, more often than not, always shifting. Bottom line: My experience is that most women, whether married at 20 or unmarried at 40, are engaged in the pursuit of happiness, not the pursuit of holiness. They make choices, primarily, according to what they want, not according to a code of sexual ethics.

          The most annoying line to me, in this whole thing, is: “The hookup culture opened her horizons.”

          This reminds me of the old “MRS. Degree” joke. AS IF the one thing in college that could open a girl’s horizons is the hookup culture. Nevermind the professors you have, the other students you meet, the books you read, the ideas you are exposed to, the internships, travel opportunities, etc.

          Even setting aside issues of spiritual peril and emotional wellbeing, the hookup culture does not “open” horizons. While it is the product of unravling sexual mores it is also, perhaps even more fundamentally, the natural spinoff of a cultural of meritocracy in which a person’s resume and earning potential are considered key indicators of a successful life. In many ways, I think the young women who were the subjects of this article are dealing with the very same cultural problem as Anne-Marie Slaughter, wife and mother of however many years, who probably would probably define “hooking up” as friending someone on LinkedIn.

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