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.