Uncovering Gender

'Neutering of American Male' Is Same Old Story

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A new, not-for-Valentine's Day book offers another tired warning about the anti-erotic effects of ambitious women. Caryl Rivers and Rosalind Barnett describe how it follows a long line of related titles and discredited ideas that just won't go away.

(WOMENSENEWS)--"The Neutering of the American Male," a new book by Jim Wysong, delivers a rotten Valentine to aspiring, achieving women who also take a healthy interest in having a good sex life.

If men can't be in charge, warns Wysong, a self-described Christian writer, their erotic feelings disappear.

But don't rush out and read this for yourself. Spend time instead with that special someone in your life. Women don't need another book that says men have to be dominant for the sex to be good.

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Andrew Hacker already said the same thing in his 2003 book "Mismatch," writing that when women lead, their achievements may diminish males' self-confidence and indeed, their masculinity. "We will soon see . . . how far the self-assurance associated with manliness can survive when each year sees more appointments and promotions going to the other sex," he writes.

Psychologist Janet Hyde, of the University of Wisconsin, already has found that manliness is not actually super sensitive to female accomplishment. In a study of 500 couples, she found that sexual pleasure was highest among couples in which both partners worked full time and got great satisfaction from their jobs. As Hyde noted, whether you're male or female, a good job is good for your sex life.

The virility warnings of Wysong and Hacker offer another riff on the "Mars and Venus" theme that John Gray made the bad-science subject of his 1993 runaway bestseller about men and women being so different as to seem to come from different planets. Men are wired for leadership and power, women for love and relationships, goes this saw. Only when we accept those traditional notions will we all be at ease.

'Men Like War'

Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield expounds on this in his 2006 book, "Manliness," asserting that men thrive on drama, conflict and risky exploits. "War is hell but men like it," he decrees.

The Harvard Crimson objected. "Mansfield advances . . . degrading theories about women, concluding that women are more childlike than men and cannot 'be independent, or autonomous, certainly not as much as modern women want to be.' Most shockingly of all, he makes the claim that 'it certainly seems strange that being capable of rape can make a person better qualified for greatness, but it's probably true.'"

Wysong declares that "Most men are wired to be in charge; it's part of their DNA."

He may have gotten this idea from psychologist Simon Baron-Cohen of Cambridge University and his 2003 book "The Essential Difference," which describes the male brain as "systematizing," the female brain as "empathizing."

By this matrix, the male is built for leadership and power, mastery of hunting and tracking, trading, achieving and maintaining power, gaining expertise, tolerating solitude, using aggression and taking on leadership roles. The female brain specializes in making friends, mothering, gossip and "reading" a partner. Girls and women are so focused on others that they have little interest in figuring out how the world works.

Hormones, not brains, star in another "males are better" screed by political commentator Andrew Sullivan. In a controversial 2000 cover article in the New York Times Magazine, "The He Hormone," Sullivan argued that women's lower levels of testosterone make them timid and risk-avoidant in business. It is this lack, rather than discrimination, that keeps women from rising up the career ladder.

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--submitted by webmaster for reader--

I'm an anthropologist (and mother of 3 sons).  The study about newborn boys and girls looking at objects or people fails to note that girls are more mature at birth, and for lifetimes.  That  means that  at birth, a full-term girl's brain is more ready to notice faces than is a boy's.  The difference continues and critically at around first grade, when girls are experiencing a hormone shift in adrenaline that helps them sit still longer and gives them finer hand-eye coordination, while boys do not experience this shift until they are 7 or 8.  This is a major hormonal shift comparable to puberty, which is similarly earlier, age-wise, in girls.  Failing to take account of difference in maturation between males and females flaws most studies.

Wysong as a Christian writer is propagandizing Fundamentalist evangelical Christian Right dogma.  (I recently finished a book on the militant Christian Right.  So far, it doesn't have a publisher --trade publishers will have nothing to do with academics unless they have an agent, and agents aren't interested in academics, think we can't write.  Academic publishers are afraid to publish "political" books.)   As the Republican candidates are now displaying, the militant Christian Right is determined to take over America.


Alice B. Kehoe, prof. emeritus, Marquette U.