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The Cultural Emasculinization I Saw Hiking

November 11, AD2016

wilderness, isolation, aloneI was visiting my family a while back. One day, my sister and I went out to the mountains for a hike up Johnston Canyon and to the Ink Pots beyond. It’s 6.5 miles each way, 2000 feet vertical, skinny boardwalks inside a canyon, wet trails, so a moderately difficult hike but definitely worth it for the beauty of the Canyon, the Ink Pots and the magnificent mountain views.

As we hiked up, my sister was telling me about her failed attempts to get a decent boyfriend, let alone one she’d marry. She has high standards but she says the biggest problem is that even though decent guys show interest, none have the guts to ask her out. Being traditional and wanting a romance, not just a pragmatic relationship resulting in marriage, she won’t dare ask guys out. The men she knew were acting like boys.

I thought about how so many young men today are captivated by pornography or video games to really be unfit for any life commitment. I remembered reading over a decade ago, my then provincial, Fr Anthony Bannon, was cited as stating that over half of those who seemed like “best prospects” had to be directed away from candidacy because of serious issues with pornography. And everything I’ve seen has said this problem has gotten even. Many of these young men are probably not ready to get married either for the same reason. Every woman has more dignity than a porn addict will give her.

As I continued up the path with my sister, I was noticing what I thought about was being played out in the path in front of me. It seemed every group was either a guy and gal couple or seemed female-dominated. I counted for the next 30 minutes and got up to about twice as many girls than guys in the 15 to 40 age range. Hiking is good exercise for both sexes but such adventure has been more generally attributed to the masculine side. Why weren’t young men hiking?

The Cultural Shift: Good and Bad

Recent culture has been good at encouraging girls to take on many roles that were traditionally male-only. From my mom in the 70’s who was one of the first four female engineering students aMcMaster University, to having sports like women’s soccer and women’s hockey in the Olympics. However, our culture has failed to encourage boys to attain higher and more difficult things.

Females make up 55% of enrollment at US universities this fall and all indications have this disparity widening. It seems like women are succeeding everywhere while young men hang out in their parents’ basement for years playing World of Warcraft. Our society should value male gifts along with female gifts and help both succeed.

At the same time that society is promoting women to all the roles, a gender ideology has slowly crept in to say there is no difference between men and women. Along with this came a loosening of sexual morals. (These two movements may be chicken and egg or from unrelated causes but together cause a pattern in people today.) This is what goes against our faith – there is nothing against Catholic teaching about having a female doctor or a male elementary school teacher but when we take away gender, both men and women loose something.

What women lose is respect and dignity. Wendy Shalit points out that modesty can empower women and that, “Simone de Beauvoir, who was one of the most radical feminists, thought a society that did not respect modesty would include violence against women.” I think a lot of ink has been spilled on this and as a man living a vow of chastity, I don’t think myself the best qualified to address it.

Instead, I want to focus the rest of this essay on how modern gender ideology emasculates men, making them lose drive and motivation, and what we can do about it.

We know there are natural physiological differences between men and women – we don’t have the enormous sexual dimorphism seen in some animals like peacocks or walruses. But we still have clear physical differences from the reproductive system to shoulder position to psychology. These differences indicate a difference beyond just the physical act of lovemaking.

Both the liberalization of sexual morals and the demolition of sexual differentiation with gender theory work against man’s motivation.

The Destruction of Sexual Morals

Since the dawn of history, most males have had a strong motivation to impress females to gain their favor. This is common to all animals, just watch bighorn sheep fight or some birds dance. Even from a young age, boys try to impress the girls in their class. Once they get older, men (at least responsible ones) tend to focus on winning over that one singular female. There has always been ways to circumvent this with prostitution or peep shows. However, the current prevalence of pornography takes this to a completely new level: with a few thumb motions, young males can get a greater variety of sexual experiences in an afternoon than their grandpas could imagine in a lifetime. Many people fall into the easy version of sex called pornography rather than the difficult form that is more fulfilling and can actually love you back. Not only does pornography teach a false “easy sex” but it makes real sex less pleasurable, reducing desire for it and/or causing erectile dysfunction in young men. This creates an addictive cycle leading a young man to get caught up in himself and unmotivated to do anything with his sex drive but view porn and masturbate. Thus, one of the major motivations of a male psyche – impressing and winning over a woman – disappears.

Along with pornography comes the hook-up culture which can eviscerate what little motivation a young man has to impress a woman. When all a young male needs to do is wait till a girl has had two beers and then try a few cute memorized pick-up lines to take them to bed, there is no challenge. A challenge motivates men. Just see what games people do for fun: Candy Crush Saga and Call of Duty are both challenging at least once you get past the introduction. If this more central thing isn’t challenging, motivation in general wanes.

Gender Ideology

Then we have the problem of gender ideology creating amorphous, asexual humans who decide on their gender at will. Men and boys like to be men and boys, and like to have their manly spaces. The only manly spaces available today seem to be without great challenge: watching sports, and chatting at a bar or in a garage. None of these are areas of particular challenge or motivation. Compare this with some particularly masculine society in my father’s or grandfather’s generation: the military, clubs like the Knights of Columbus, firefighters, etc. Those are where a challenge has brought about some real motivation for men to transform themselves. Being a good Knight or a good fireman takes skill and effort while being a good sports fan just requires showing up. Motivation is lacking in our young men.

Gender ideology fails to recognize that children learn in different ways based on their sex as Dr Leonard Sax proves in Why Gender Matters. Boys, especially younger boys, tend to learn better in a noisy and competitive environment but our supposedly gender-neutral schooling emphasizes cooperation and silence. Both are traits young girls do better at. A teacher will stop a boy for bothering a girl by humming as he reads but not realize the over-emphasis on silence actually hurts boys. Even as a man in my 30’s, I often find it easiest to read while pacing.

Our Response

So, what can we do? I think there are two concrete actions. First, to go against rampant sexuality and the other, the great thing of gender ideology. I don’t think these alone will solve everything but they are first steps that are often ignored.

If we want young men to realize true love and not just fake pornographic love, we need to offer them good examples of true love. A married couple with children should be so madly in love with each other there provides a model that the sons want to emulate. We need to provide other examples through our friends, our parish, the media, and even fictional stories that show an endearing romantic love. These will provide young men with a model that they can emulate, not just physical actions that satisfy their sexual desire.

We also need to provide places as motivation and challenge for men of all ages. There is value to “men-only” charity organizations like the Knights, a confraternity or a team in a lay movement which challenge men in manly ways. Young men need to find a place they can really develop themselves in a manly way beyond the sports team. An obvious example are youth organizations similar to the Knights, whether the Columbian Squires, Boy Scouts or Conquest Clubs. But oftentimes clubs focused around “manliness” might be more a particular boy’s style: I remember a math club at the local collage I was part of during middle school: one girl showed up but she was macho enough we treated it like a boys-only activity.

Here is hoping we can reverse the emasculating tread and help males become men once again.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

We love Jesus because he loved us first. Fr. Matthew wants to help you experience Jesus and become his apostle. He is a priest with the Legionaries of Christ ordained in 2013, and lives in the Washington DC metro area where he studies at STL and helps out with a few ministries. Fr. Matthew is also one of the top priests on social media with over 35,000 Twitter followers. Originally from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Fr. Matthew has worked throughout North America.

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  • Earl Thomas

    ‘ Being traditional and wanting a romance, not just a pragmatic relationship resulting in marriage, she won’t dare ask guys out.’

    If she has high standards because she wants a good moral man to marry…that’s a good thing. If she has high standards because she wants that plus romantic feelings all the time in marriage, good luck. Once a couple gets married often times the pragmatic will take over because that’s how marriage usually is in the real world. I’ve been dumped more than once because she focused more on her feelings, which has caused me to think ‘why bother’ if you do what you should in a relationship and that happens. Morality is a good reason to have high standards, trying to avoid a pragmatic marriage is not.

    The rest of the article is correct…a lot of the emasculation has come through the loosening of sexual morals. The combo of birth control, porn, and the hookup culture has made men weak and cowardly and women rude and intolerable.

  • Eddie

    I think you hit the nail on the head Father. Society has demonized males, most especially white hetero males which unfortunately will signal the end of what was once a great society if the pendulum doesn’t swing back the right way. Discrimination is just as hateful when it is perpetrated on men as on any other group. Universities, corporations, media and even the Church help perpetuate this. When I hear the revised readings from St. Paul begin Brothers and sisters I cringe. Sometimes the reading is so obviously directed towards men only the additional non existent address supposedly from St. Paul to sisters can’t be ignored. The inclusive language is disturbing and ridiculous. How the bishops approved it is beyond me. If I am asked to read at mass I NEVER say sisters, Scripture warns very clearly about adding and subtracting. This gender ideology has infected all of society.
    Its probably in the interest of modern women to re-examine the secular merits of the sexual revolution, otherwise, they will be the ones working 80 hours a week to barely support their children and the men in their lives who will be at home dads still playing warcraft and candy crush into middle age and beyond. For the millennial snowflakes I have some good advice… In the words of Don Corleone to Johnny Fontaine…” be a man”. Great article padre, very, very insightful.

  • Micha_Elyi

    …my sister was telling me about her failed attempts to get a decent
    boyfriend, let alone one she’d marry. She has high standards but she says the biggest problem is that even though decent guys show interest, none have the guts to ask her out. Being traditional and wanting a romance, not just a pragmatic relationship resulting in marriage, she won’t dare ask guys out.

    Your sister is doing it wrong.

    Study after study of human behavior in such matters reveals that invariably the female makes the first move. No, she needn’t “dare ask guys out”. The female’s first move is typically ambiguous and leaves her plausible deniability should her overture be rejected. Still, clearly Schneider’s sister withholds all signals to “decent guys (who) show interest” that she’s receptive and won’t reject them when they risk rejection by making the overt act of asking her out.

    Silly females. They want feminism and all her works and all her false show but want to switch it off like a light the moment “being traditional and wanting a romance” strikes their fancy. It’s cafeteria feminism, to coin a phrase. Sorry, children, but the adult world doesn’t work that way. It’s not men who are being boys but females behaving like spoiled children.

  • Aliquantillus

    Another factor not mentioned in the article is how modern women often dress and behave. For a traditionally minded man what you see today on the street and in offices and workplaces is sometimes unbelievable. I’m living in Europe and it may be worse here than in the US, but the fake masculinity of women wearing clothes traditionally reserved for men is abhorrent. Add to this the total lack of manners, a general rudeness in behaviour, and you have a type of woman no honest man will ever find attractive. In our post-modern culture the fundamental relation between male and female is completely out of balance. Not only in matters of dating, but also within marriage, and in parenthood and relations between grandparents and their children and grandchildren. In general, dignity and honour have gone. I can recommend to everyone the Notification Concerning Men’s Dress Worn by Women by Card. Siri (1960), which I found on a non-Catholic blog, called Messianic613. Very worth reading. If it is permitted to give a link, here it is: https://messianic613.wordpress.com/2016/02/22/the-problem-of-women-dressing-like-men/

  • dan

    throwing your manhood away by vowing celibacy will prevent you from ever understanding women……

    • Micha_Elyi

      You’re confused about “manhood”. It’s not a body appendage. What’s more, women understand women and they ha–ven’t got that appendage.

    • samton909

      That’s a pretty dumb comment. Most priests have dated throughout high school and college, and sometimes longer. They have always had mothers and sisters and friends, so you are just making a cheap shot.

    • haggis95

      Wrong: But you are deceived if your think seeking sexual encounters with women will help you understand them.

      One’s manhood is not defined by the sex act: it is an integral part of being human and includes all aspects of one’s personhood.

  • Teresa Briggs

    Both men and women become confused about their nature when indoctrinated relentlessly year after year- in the workplace, TV, radio, media, fashion,advertising, state and federal law. In looking back one also has to acknowledge the changes in Church worship that focused more on Self than on God. Generations have grown up in a society in which traditional values were attacked, dismembered and reassembled. What we always forget is that our actions have unforeseen consequences not just for our generation but for those coming after us. Acknowledging where we went wrong is necessary if we are to understand how we got here but we should not wallow in it. It is past time to stop blaming others and start forging a new path ourselves.The only way to change is for individuals to embrace higher standards and return to traditional values, one person at a time, one family at a time, one moment at a time. Find like minded people. As for not being able to find a good man or woman, it was the same back in my day. Sometimes our standards are too high or too low and sometimes God has different plans for us than what we desire. Addictions including pornography are destructive. When you are focused on the object of your addiction you do not hear God, you hear your Self. And that is the point of the Enemy’s attack.

    • james

      ” … focused more on Self than on God.”

      Luke 17:21 ” … for the kingdom of God is within you.”

  • anthony aguirre

    The Church itself shares some blame. There used to be altar boys, now we have altar servers. Francis has even muddied the waters further by looking into then idea of female deacons. Also, consider all those hymns that have had words referring to man changed to a more gender neutral word.

  • Larry Bud

    Yeah, yeah… another pity-party for the herds of supposedly virtuous Catholic women who can’t find an acceptable man. It’s gotta be the fault of all those awful men.

    This is nonsense. Don’t propagate this myth.

    Father, did you ever do any dating? Did you ever experience what the average Catholic man deals with now? One huge and obvious problem is that parishes that no longer provide informal opportunities for social networking. About two generations ago, events like picnics and dances and mixers ended. There’s no way for single Catholic men to find out who the single Catholic women are. (Especially the ones who “won’t dare ask guys out”.) And now two generations later, the Catholic marriage rate has plummeted to almost zero. This should not be a surprise to anyone.

    • At least in this case, that is not the issue. Her university has good Catholic social opportunities and a lot of her friends are from a program she worked part-time at giving retreats to middleschoolers. At least for her the university chaplaincy is a bigger reference point than the parish as it was for me when I went to the same university 15 years ago.

    • Larry Bud

      Well then I wonder if she is affected by what’s described in this article. Note the publication date of 1993. This has been an issue for a long, long time. https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=134

      If she sincerely wants to date and marry a fellow Catholic, her behavior might need to change somewhat. I would hate to see her leave college and join a typical parish which might have a “young adult” group (which may or may not appeal to her), but no other opportunities to meet other parishioners and learn where other decent single Catholic men might be. If she gets beyond the “young adult” years and doesn’t manage to hit the spousal jackpot, then it’s pretty much “game over”.

    • I think you completely misunderstand gender roles and my family when you figure a woman who wants to marry should leave college. If you go up the feminine side, she’s the 5th generation in a row to get a University degree (yes, our great-gramdma born in the 1800s got a degree). I find your suggestion insulting. Goodbye.

    • Larry Bud

      I never said “a woman who wants to marry should leave college”. Not at all. How on earth did you draw that conclusion?

      Check my Disqus comment history. I strongly believe that men and women who are serious about developing their God-given talents should complete college and get established in their careers. And then, turn their focus toward dating and marriage, likely in their late twenties or early thirties.

      However if one follows that model, they will find no help from the Church. And I don’t ask for parishes need to run dating services. I mean that parish social life has become non-existent. It’s impossible for Catholic singles to even so much as identify each other.

      And as for your sister’s specific situation as a college student who can’t get a man to ask her out, Micha_Elyi’s reply below was a brilliant summary of that.

      Again, your article was largely man-bashing which has become popular in church-y circles recently (my own bishop wrote a long rambling paper about a year ago). This needs to stop. It’s not helpful.

    • 1. Sorry, I misread this line “I would hate to see her leave college and join a typical parish which might have a “young adult” group.”

      2. I think this sister would be fine with God granting her a single vocation.

      3. I’m talking about the culture more than individual men.

    • Bret Hemberg

      Hi Larry,
      I think Fr is talking about a general problem here and not saying that all men have this problem. To me it is not “men bashing” to point out that there are serious issues happening in the world today that affect the formation of boys into men. I myself have 4 boys at home ranging from 7 to nearly 13 and can relate to some of what he is talking about, especially in relation to how boys are treated in school (I am currently living in Germany).

      To be honest, what I get from this article is there is some serious thinking we need to have about bringing boys up in a world that is trying to stop them turning into real men. Additionally, I get your point about life of our parishes. I often look with envy at my protestant brothers and sisters and the richness of their Christian walk together. A more wholesome, fulfilling, daily and weekly life “together” in the parish (not just 1hr on Sunday and being a member of a parish group that meets once a month) is what we need (Acts 2:42-47).

      Interestingly, Fr only spent 77 words on his sisters plight out of the total 1565 for this article. To me it is not about his sister, its about seeing what for some of us is not easily visible and then inspiring us to make a difference.

    • Larry Bud

      Bret, you’re an enabler of the man-bashing that articles like this represent. Stand up for your fellow men and say “no more!”.

      I write on behalf of Catholic men who stayed true to the church and ALL its moral teachings. We watched most of our peers – men AND women – either a) shack up before marriage, then lie to the priest about their situation before getting a Church wedding, or b) marry outside the Church and leave it altogether.

      Fr’s sister (and the clergy in general) insists that men like us don’t exist any more. Or that we’re asexual or amorphous (using Fr’s words) or have lost our way. That’s all completely untrue. We’re still here. We’re completely open to meeting and dating faithful single Catholic women. But their behavior has changed – Micha_Elyi explained it quite well. And parish life has died, so there is literally NO way for us to identify those them. Should we stalk them in the parking lot after mass? Because that’s the only chance we get. Sadly, most of us have simply given up.

      And what reward do we get? My own bishop (Olmsted of Phoenix) wrote a paper that bashed men much like this article. He said in stark terms that any man who does not have actual children nor spiritual children (as a priest does) has merely lived a “half life”. Sure, bash the men. They won’t complain.

      This needs to end. Now.