The demonisation of our sons: Browbeaten by toxic masculinity crusaders invited into schools, boys are feeling cowed and worthless… No wonder they’re seduced by real misogynists like Andrew Tate, writes GUS CARTER
Masculinity has been in crisis for as long as anyone can remember. The usual explanation is that post-industrial society doesn’t much care for brawn.
We’re all office-dwellers now, mutely churning out spreadsheets for other spreadsheet producers.
The theory makes sense as far as it goes. But something else has changed much more recently: a rejection of the very concept of masculinity.
The polling company YouGov found that just eight per cent of people have positive views of white men in their 20s, by far the lowest of any ethnicity or age group.
Males are routinely presented as inherently dangerous, aggressive and animalistic, incapable of controlling their own instincts.
Males are routinely presented as inherently dangerous, aggressive and animalistic, incapable of controlling their own instincts
You can see it on public transport, where government advertisements announce that staring is sexual harassment.
We blokes can’t even be trusted to use our eyes properly. Teenage boys are routinely disciplined by their schools for even the most minor infractions of an insurgent sexual politics.
A friend’s son at a smart English day school was recently hauled up for the crime of unprompted communication with a girl.
The boy had sent a message introducing himself to a student from another school. There was, according to the friend, no sexual element to the message.
It was a simple greeting. No matter. That kind of behaviour is unacceptable. This moral shift has been encouraged by social media and an expansive higher-education sector that delights in tearing down the old order.
Things we once took for granted are merely ‘constructed’ – and anyone who disagrees is a misogynistic privilege-hoarder.
The new believers are able to muster online, forcing their revolutionary worldview into the wider culture and on to institutions that simply want a quiet life.
Look at the Global Boyhood Initiative (GBI), which is writing a new curriculum – currently being piloted in a couple of London schools – on gender equality for children
Last year, the GBI published a report on the state of British boys that starts by suggesting that gender is ‘not tied to sex organs’, and then goes on to call families ‘gender and heterosexuality ‘factories’ ‘.
A cottage industry of ‘toxic masculinity’ tutors has emerged after the Everyone’s Invited campaign that followed a wave of anonymous allegations of sexual impropriety at Britain’s top private schools that began in 2020.
This includes an organisation called Beyond Equality, which sells its services to hundreds of UK schools, putting on workshops in which they tell boys to strip themselves of the ‘restrictive, burdensome armour’ of masculinity.
The reason, it says, is to put a stop to ‘gender-based violence’. The implication is clear: men need to be reprogrammed.
‘Boys are now seen as potential perverts,’ explains one female former teacher, who quit the profession last year.
‘There was this obsession with the victimisation of women. I thought we had been getting somewhere with sex and relationships, teaching the children to treat people with respect, but that has been totally set back.’
A few weeks ago, a school in Essex sent a letter to parents telling them that their children were to be prohibited from having any romantic relationships with fellow students.
All physical contact was to be banned, including a simple hug. In the letter, the school said the policy was designed to ‘keep your child safe. If your child is touching somebody else, whether they are consenting or not, anything could happen.
‘It could lead to an injury, make someone feel very uncomfortable, or someone being touched inappropriately’.
Who on earth really believes that children might injure themselves by holding hands?
This frantic prudery is a result not of a resurgence of conservative values, but of a progressive fear of men.
Appalling behaviour is apparently everywhere. In 2021, Ofsted compiled a report that found 79 per cent of schoolgirls said sexual assault happened ‘a lot’ or ‘often’ at their school.
But there seems to be an inability to hold two notions in our heads: that sexual assault is bad and that treating men as inherent sex pests is also bad.
A reasonable worry about assault appears to have morphed into an institutional misandry.
There is a lack of recognition that, as with all crimes, the proportion of perpetrators is vanishingly small.
The awful behaviour of a few is leading to the mistreatment of all.
Another teacher, working at a London college, agrees: ‘The new sexual framework reaffirms the gender roles that boys are these really strong, insensitive masculine beings and girls are these wimpy things that need to be careful.
‘We seem to be saying, “You’re a girl, you’re going to be taken advantage of, you need to be scared.” ‘
There’s a failure to contend with the idea that the awkwardness of young manhood – the playground scuffles, the stilted attempts at courtship – are the necessary growing pains of becoming a well- adjusted grown-up.
The result of all this over-policing is boys who feel uneasy, anxious and angry. Since 2017, the NHS has found that the proportion of boys with probable mental health issues has increased by more than 50 per cent and is now at nearly one in five.
The suicide rate for boys aged 15 to 19 has more than doubled in the past decade.
Child psychologist Julie Lynn Evans supported Everyone’s Invited, seeing it as a necessary response to decades of dodgy male behaviour.
But now she worries the pendulum has swung too far. ‘The boys came out of lockdown into this slightly hysterical atmosphere of ‘Don’t touch, that’s inappropriate, that’s assault.’
‘They are being treated as guilty until proven innocent. They can hardly move for fear of doing something wrong.’
I worry that boys are so browbeaten by activist adults that they are turning into purposeless young men.
In the US, the proportion of males under 30 who haven’t had sex in the past year has tripled since 2008, now at a third.
While data is still being collected, reports suggest the same trend is occurring in Britain.
We have seen plenty of hand-wringing about incels (‘involuntary celibates’), the uber-misogynists who rage against women.
But I suspect that the same politics that frets about ‘toxic masculinity’ in part gives rise to the most toxic form of manhood.
Tell someone enough that you dislike their character and they’ll naturally object.
Resentment becomes mutual. Inevitably, then, there has been a backlash from boys.
It has come in the form of Andrew Tate, the British-American social-media personality who projects an ‘ultra-masculine, ultra-luxurious lifestyle’.
Tate was arrested last year at his garish Romanian party house where he is accused of exploiting trafficked women.
His videos, in which he tells sad men to stop taking antidepressants and get to a gym, have caused something of a moral panic among Britain’s teachers.
It has come in the form of Andrew Tate (pictured), the British-American social-media personality who projects an ‘ultra-masculine, ultra-luxurious lifestyle
They fear that his self-professed ‘misogyny’ is turning boys into horrors. Female teachers have complained of teenagers writing ‘MMAS’ – a sexist meme used on social media standing for ‘make me a sandwich’ – on their homework.
Why are teenage boys so excited by Tate? According to the former teacher, boys would tell her: ‘I know this guy’s a t****r, but he’s funny and he has a point. He’s challenging these ideas that really need challenging.’
Tate seems more symptom than cause. Young men have been moving away from progressive politics for at least the past few years.
The political theorist Eric Kaufmann found that the young, specifically men, are turning to the Right.
In 2020, well before the likes of Tate came about, 18-year-olds were found to be as Right-wing as people in their 40s.
Meanwhile, a majority of under-40s now believe that women’s equality has gone so far that it discriminates against men.
There’s certainly something going wrong with young men. For one thing, they are far more likely to be unemployed: a third of those aged 18 to 24 are not in work or seeking it, compared to a fifth of the working-age population.
Part of the problem is that British women have outperformed men in university applications since the mid-1990s.
So the girls simply produce better CVs. Consider, too, the prospect of activist HR departments wanting to fulfil gender-equality quotas: of course they’ll opt for the better candidate if she brings with her the glow of doing good.
This explains why men on the cusp of adulthood are finding it harder to get not only jobs, but girlfriends.
Men tend to value physical attractiveness in partners, while women are interested in a wider set of attributes, including earning potential.
It’s almost a certainty, too, that these single, workless men are still living with their parents.
After all, the enormous cost of housing means that two-thirds of people in their 20s do.
So we come to a startling conclusion: young men are increasingly unloved, unemployed and unable to live independently.
Lynn Evans’s description of teenage boys could as easily apply to men in their early 20s: ‘They’re in their bedrooms and only really speaking to friends online. They’re also gaming and watching a ton of pornography. They’re living in a sort of fantasy world.’
Why bother going out into a hostile environment to find a job and a girlfriend when the need for a sense of achievement, along with sexual desire, can be sated in your childhood bedroom, however artificially?
What’s happening looks like the phenomenon of the Japanese hikikomori, adolescent males who resign themselves to their bedrooms for months, spending their days playing video games and kept alive only by sad mothers.
We seem increasingly unwilling to accommodate any form of masculinity. The result is a breed of angry and unhappy young men, rejecting a world that rejects them.
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