The first time I ever had a reason to think that maybe the next generation of men coming along were a little light in the loafers, was when I hired a summer intern a dozen years ago. He was a college student hoping to become a lawyer or politician one day. He seemed like a bright and engaging kid, so we hired him. He was just going to be doing basic office stuff. Even if he was dumb as a dirt, it really didn’t matter. Just as long as he was not annoying or crazy, I figured I could get some use out of him.
Not long into his tenure, he came in late because he had a flat time and had to wait for someone. He did not know how to change a tire and he seemed somewhat amazed that people did know how to change tires. I began to notice that he did not do little things like hold the door for women or older people. He was unaware of things I just took for granted, like how to use a screwdriver. We had a small maintenance task on a piece of office gear and he watched me do it like I was conjuring spirits from the other world.
I’ve never wanted to be one of those old guys who complained about the younger generation. I think that’s silly, but talking with him and other people his age that summer, I started to wonder if maybe there was something to it. The main reason I started to change my opinion is he thought it was true. This is something I’ve bumped into a few times. It seems that many young men think previous generations of men were much more manly in some way. Apparently, it is not just a US thing. British boys think they are wimps too.
In fairness, it may be the fact that Millennials were raised in a culture that celebrated girls at the expense of boys. This stuff started in Gen-X, but it was not horrible for us. By the time the Millennials came along, schools and popular culture reeked of estrogen. It’s perfectly reasonable for these males to assume that they were never trained to be proper men, even if they are proper men anyway. There’s also the fact that the boys today are told they are girls trapped in a man’s body and that boys should be wearing dresses.
Now, I certainly knew I had it soft compared to the old guys I remember as a kid. My grandfather’s one brother was at Guadalcanal. Another died in the Bataan. Just listening to the old timers talk about their youth made it clear that they were hard men produced in hard times. That’s an extreme example. My generation did not have it hard, at least not that much tougher than the Millennials and now Gen-Z. It does not make a lot of sense for them to think they are a generation of pansies or for them to actually be pansies.
The flip side, assuming the young men today are wimps, is that this is the result of the feminization of society. That happened because the previous generations of men slowly ceded ground to the ladies. That process started in the 19th century when Protestant pastors teamed up with vinegar drinking lesbianism to get women the right to vote in Federal elections. Even today’s wimps know that was a terrible idea. How is it the tough guys of a century ago were so eager to hand the ballot to women?
The MGTOW¹/PUA² blogger Heartiste thinks it is soy in diets. The reliance on soy protein in modern Western diets is causing a drop in testosterone. I don’t have low testosterone, even for a geezer, but I never eat soy. I don’t eat processed foods, just meat and green vegetables. I have friends my age who do eat lots of prepared foods and they have gone on testosterone replacement therapy. It sounds implausible, but the European diet never included lots of soy, so maybe there is something to it.
There is some data showing that testosterone levels are falling in men. It’s an age independent decline, which means levels are falling relative to the same age groups of previous generations. There’s also the observed drop in sperm counts. One could be related to the other, but both could have some common root cause. The odds of that cause being blue-haired feminists screaming about their feelings is probably low, but culture cannot be ruled out entirely. Still, environment is the more likely cause.
There’s also the modern habit of loading up young boys with psychoactive drugs so they don’t act like young boys. This just started coming around when I was a kid, but we largely missed it. Millennials and Gen-Z boys were drugged as a matter of school policy. Giving young people these kinds of drugs is madness, but about 20% of males grew up munching on Ritalin and Adderall. It’s not unreasonable to suspect that a youth spent high on stimulants is going to have a hangover effect into adulthood.
The diet and lifestyle explanation would cover the last few generations, but it does not explain why men a century ago started ceding ground to women. My grandfather’s generation had the very real fear of starvation. Men were still routinely killed on work sites and personal violence was a part of a normal man’s life. They never heard of soy or ADHD, but they were willing to open the door for women to take over the culture. For thousands of years men knew how to control their women. Then they didn’t.
Maybe there is some multi-generational cycle at work and the pendulum is about to swing the other way. It is hard to know as we struggle to understand trends that transcend generations. Maybe it is an evolutionary trigger built into humans. When times are good, the men get stupid, eventually bringing an end to the good times. Regardless, the fact is we have fewer manly men now. That’s not a problem in a post-scarcity society, but if that changes, we may find a shortage of men to be a very big problem.
¹ I’m unreliably told that Heartiste may not be MGTOW. I’m not all that clear on the definition in the man-o-verse, so apologies to Heartiste if I characterized him incorrectly.
² Hilariously, many men are very upset at my calling Heartiste MGTOW, so I have amended the post.