Being a man is supposed to be a lot like being James Bond, but here are 7 burdens of a Y chromosome!
The cultural stereotype is that it’s great to be a man. Not only do we have shorter lines at the rest room, but we make scads more money and can reach things on higher shelves in the marketplace. We don’t have to deal with double standards or glass ceilings, and we’re raised to have confidence and high self-esteem, so we can all comfortably act like the Sean Connery version of James Bond. Cooly knock off a few bad guys in the afternoon, then drive our Astin Martins to our expensive hotel in Monte Carlo, where beautiful movie actresses are waiting to throw themselves into our arms.
But in truth, it ain’t like that down here in Kansas.
Here are some simple facts about what it’s really like to be a regular good ole boy:
1. People want to hurt you. I have less than fond memories of the black eyes and swollen lips I suffered at the hands of various bullies as a young man. Or the nervous feeling in my stomach all afternoon when some would-be tough guy challenged me with the classic line: “After school, punk!” When I should have been studying for my math exams in high school, my mind was often filled instead with thoughts about how to avoid some bully in one of my classes, and whether the best strategy was to stare him down or make a self-diminishing joke, allowing him to establish his dominance at the expense of my acting submissive. But except for a minor injuries and years of anxiety, I got off easy. If you go hang around almost any emergency room in any reasonable sized city, you will see a steady stream of young males staggering in, or being wheeled in with knife wounds, gunshot wounds, gashes from broken bottles, or fractured skulls from baseball bats aimed at their heads. And as Martin Daly and Margo Wilson pointed out in their classic book Homicide, crime statistics from any year taken at random, from any society throughout history, reveal that men are many times more likely to be murdered than are women. The perpetrators are more likely to be males than females, but even when the usually more peaceful sex decides to murder, her victim is much more likely to be a man.
A couple of decades ago, Virgil Sheets and I asked college students whether they’d ever considered committing a homicide. A surprising majority had. And who were the fantasized victims of those homicidal fantasies? When men or women thought of killing someone, the intended victim was usually a man. Some of those men who get beat up and killed, you might argue, deserved it – wife-beaters or bullies are in fact more likely to get killed by their self-defending victims. But most homicides and assaults do not involve self-defense, and many involve victims who are completely blameless. I was once purposely bumped by a muscular little guy in a bar, and chose to ignore it; but he was looking for a fight, but the next guy at the bar was a big motorcyclist, who told him to watch where he was going, for which said biker was quickly beaten and kicked into a bloody mess by the pushy (and apparently tough) young punk.
2. You have problems controlling your impulses. For years I taught students about psychology disorders in my classes on general and abnormal psychology. In preparing my lectures, I discovered that men are overwhelming represented in several diagnostic categories, sometimes called “impulse control disorders” – predilictions that lead to alcohol and drug abuse, sexual misbehaviors of various kinds, violent outbursts, delinquency, problems holding down a job, and an overrepresention in almost all categories of criminal activity (with consequent overrepresentation in arrest records and prison terms. Prostitution is one of the few crimes for which women are more likely to be arrested, but that’s likely because women are much less likely to pay for sex, a topic to which I’ll turn to next.
3. For a good portion of your life, you have an irrationally and self-destructively high desire for sex. By a “good portion” of your life, I mean two things: broadly, several decades between the teens and the fifties, and more proximately, many times a day during those long decades. One researcher found that among men between the ages of 18 and 25, fully 50 percent had thought about sex in the last five minutes. Among men between 26 and 55, “only” 25 percent were unable to go 5 minutes without thinking about sex. At the ripe old age of 63, I have a lot more productive thinking time (I often have whole half-hours uninterrupted by these distracting thoughts). When Kinsey did his classic surveys of sexual behavior, he found that men masturbated more frequently (only 5 percent said they never masturbated, and some people wonder if they were telling the truth). Kinsey also found that men were dangerously polysexual – if I’m recalling correctly, 50 percent of guys who grew up on farms had had sex with a nonhuman partner (cows and sheep must be more attractive than the squirrels and English sparrows we had in New York). Then there’s that rather shocking classic study by Clark and Hatfield which involved the line: “Excuse me, I’ve seen you around campus and find you very attractive. Would you like to go to bed with me.” (controls were asked if they’d like to go on a date). Around 50 percent of the men said yes to the date, but over 70 percent of college men approached by a total stranger were willing to go to bed her. Those who turned her down were both thankful for the offer, and apologetic about saying no.
4. If you are heterosexual, those sexual partners you desire so much do not reciprocate your urgency. Clark and Hatfield also had college men approach college women on campus using the same lines. The guys were reasonably attractive, as judged by the fact that over 50 percent of