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Let men speak for men

Women’s voices have dominated the debate around men’s issues

Women have been writing about men’s issues with increasing frequency. Articles in typically hostile publications have waxed sympathetic, as men’s earnings and education attainment have declined, and suicides reach record highs. I don’t wish to discourage this. It could indicate a coming armistice in the war of the sexes — on the eve of our supply of soldiers being depleted. Why do lay press outlets only permit men’s issues to be discussed, though, when passed through the filters of feminism?

The share of men who report no intimate partners has tripled

Caitlin Moran’s book, telling boys to behave like girls to be less depressed, is thankfully atypical of the tone of this trend. Others have been humble and empathic. Shoe0nHead’s video on male loneliness, lamenting her fellow Leftists’ unwillingness to address the issue, surpassed a million views. She compiled tragic testimonials from the comments in an X thread. The consistent themes throughout are dissatisfaction with the opportunity ceiling of their employment, no intimate relationships, and substance dependency to soothe the pain.

This should surprise nobody: the share of men who report no intimate partners has tripled within a decade. Fifteen per cent report having no friends either. Many men endure a crippling sense of indifference to their existence that women, with closer friendship circles, cultural empowerment and a deluge of online male attention, find completely alien.

In print, Nina Power posed her book’s titular question, What Do Men Want? Some answered “Beer”, “Sex” and a “Shed”. She added “to have and to be fathers” to this list — a role that has diminished in recent generations. Mary Harrington made such a case for sheds in Feminism Against Progress: arguing women should “Let Men Be” in male-only spaces, as a way to reconstitute solidarity between the sexes — a coming apart to come back together.

In the press, POLITICO ran an article series titled “The Masculinity Issue” — authored by women. Christine Emba in The Washington Post calls for creating a “positive vision of what masculinity entails that is particular”, capable of “Recognizing distinctiveness but not pathologizing it”, “neither neutral nor interchangeable with femininity”. Michelle Cottle suggested to New York Times readers that sport and competition might catalyse the lateral bonding that men are lacking.

These women write commendably, with compassion and conviction. The gatekeeping is not their fault. What does it tell us, though, when men must petition women for permission to voice their concerns? Is this not comparable to the position of weakness from which women asked for the vote, which feminists invoke as evidence of the patriarchy?

Although Emba formulates a helpful trifecta of meaningful roles for men — “protector, provider, even procreator” — she grants that, as a woman, she remains “reluctant to fully articulate” any solutions. “There’s a reason a lot of the writing on the crisis in masculinity ends at the diagnosis stage,” Emba says. I suggest that it’s because women are doing it. They are missing aspects of embodied manhood that are inaccessible to them. Concerning the sexual non-specificity of well-meant interventions, a Democrat strategist told Emba, “When you strip out the specificity, people feel less seen.” Representation matters to men, too.

An incomplete picture of masculine virility and virtue is pedalled at present by those who draw the most eyes in the Manosphere. Popular podcasts and figures like Pearl Davis fail to provide a healthy model of sexual complementarity. When accomplished patriarchs are persecuted and precluded from the public square, is it any surprise that low-resolution resentment festers elsewhere online? When male competence is castigated as evidence of conspiratorial oppression, is it surprising that men withdraw from participation in civilisation? Progressives have vilified male competence as “toxic masculinity” for a decade. How can they be mortified now, when men are attracted to the (latently homoerotic) neoclassical vitalism of Bronze Age Pervert or the Darwinian proto-warlordism of Andrew Tate? Nature abhors a vacuum. The establishment, in pushing relentless female empowerment, made one for male mentorship.

For all his defrauding and porn-pedalling faults, Tate’s message resonates because he acknowledges the indifference of the world to men. He commands them to prove themselves through hard work and in combat. As Emba told Vox, “If the progressive left is like, We’re not going to tell you that, just be a good person, you don’t need rules. And then young men are like, No, I’m really asking you. I really want rules, actually”, then those who make the rules will rule the hearts of men.

If women want to help men, and even love them, here’s what they can do to help.

We’re more like Cain and Abel than Adam and Eve

First, women could set measured expectations for men to earn relationships with them. This requires they not compete with men with the same criteria for what men think makes an eligible mate. Liberal capitalism is what Power calls a “sibling society”: where men and women share unisex workspaces, social settings and cohabitate at higher rates than in history. At loggerheads for the same resources, opportunities and forms of empowerment, we’re more like Cain and Abel than Adam and Eve. In competition with each other, we’re more alike and therefore less attracted to each other than ever before.

This exacerbates sex differences at the ends of distribution scales. These extremes malform the natural hypergamy women have when selecting a man to settle down with. The triple-six rule (feet, income, inches) makes the dating pool so shallow that high-earning attractive women are left without many marriageable prospects. (Hence why marriage is increasingly reserved for the rich.) Something has gone awry when dating site data reports that women find 80 per cent of men below average in attractiveness. This statistical impossibility is a consequence of skewed perceptions. As Harrington urges, the formula for a successful relationship is to pick someone “good enough” who will show up when it counts.

This solidarity should be established throughout the courtship stage. Risk falls largely on men when establishing romantic interest. Norah Vincent observed this when living disguised as a man for eighteen months. A lesbian herself, she became resentful of how women were contemptuous when she approached them as a man. Writing in Self Made Man, Vincent said:

It’s a wonder that men and women ever get together. Their signals, by necessity, are crossed, their behaviors at cross-purposes from the start. [ … ]

Whereas with the men I met and befriended as Ned there was a presumption of innocence — that is, you’re a good guy until you prove otherwise — with women there was quite often a presumption of guilt.

“Pass my test and then we’ll see if you’re worthy of me” was the implicit message coming across the table at me. And this from women who had demonstrably little to offer. “Be lighthearted,” they said, though buoyant as lead zeppelins themselves. “Be kind,” they insisted in the harshest of tones. “Don’t be like the others,” they implied, whilst having virtually condemned me as such beforehand.

Women are rightfully apprehensive of the physical risks posed by being approached by strange men. A culture which presumes guilt for an awkward advance — or, as I was told on Piers Morgan, says “men should be frightened” — discourages the majority of good men from meeting women who say they want to be approached. It would go a long way to show a little more understanding of the courage men must summon to face the Gorgon stare of potential rejection.

Another collaboration would be to decimate the porn industry. Mother-bear politicians have been a vanguard for child safeguarding. Some are seeking age-verification laws for adult content platforms. This will benefit men, too: some feel hopelessly addicted from adolescence. Porn is a surrogate for intimacy made by broken people who hate you. Performers and producers have contempt for consumers. Consumers hate themselves for trying to ease their loneliness, but paradoxically generating endless insatiable desires. The hyper-real sensory barrage of eros-on-demand dulls the magic of anticipation, imagination and men’s motivation to earn a woman’s affection. Removing that temptation will reinvigorate men to reconnect with real intimacy again.

Most of all, women could be more receptive to men’s suggestions as to how to let us fix our problems ourselves. Kelly Jay Keen has valiantly fought to “Let Women Speak”, voicing concerns about men entering their protected sex-segregated spaces. On matters concerning men, we’d quite like the chance, too.

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