MAKING MEN DISPENSABLE:
BIOTECHNOLOGY, THE MEDIA, AND THE FATE OF THE MALE
Who needs a man anyway? How often in the past twenty-five years have we been bombarded by that message? Whether verbal, visual, or subliminal, this phrase has been pounded into our consciousness by the media, feminists, and the biotechnology industry. Why does a men’s magazine proclaim that requisites for the “Top 50 Guy Movies of All Time” (Chute and Horowitz) include no sex, women, or children? Masculinity, apparently, cannot be expressed in relation to women, but only in a blood-and-guts, battle-to-the-death sort of way. A male cannot be presented as a guardian, a protector, a defender of the weak and innocent. Instead, he is a rogue warrior, saving ‘the world’ from some vague or imagined oppressor—or perhaps merely fighting inner demons. Masculinity, defined as men without women, leaves us with no masculinity at all. It has been reduced to a ‘humanity’ with no specificity of its own.
Thirty years before Howard Stern befouled airways, George Gilder predicted the toll sexual liberation would inflict
upon manhood. He prophesied that proliferation of sexual stimuli would contribute to the demise of virtuous manhood.
Males would be—and now are—summarily expunged from their long-held role
Fast forward to 2003: Biotechnology has given us such ‘miracles’ as IVF, frozen embryos, and, it is predicted, will soon produce a cloned human. All these processes increase the divide between the sexes and heighten the mechanization of sexual intercourse. Cloning, though, has rendered the male utterly superfluous: even his sperm is unnecessary. Consequently, on a very basic level, the only purpose of a male is to provide stud service. The male has become utterly dispensable.
Contemporary American society offers two distinct ways in which to be male: the metrosexual and the hyper-masculine. The former is worried about his weight, shares pedicure appointments with his partner, and reads magazines that tell him how to watch for ‘style trends.’ The December 2003 issue of Men’s Journal elaborates on this kind of male:
We have as a role model the metrosexual male : the sensitive, open, warm, almost overtly androgynous guy, who champions women’s rights and cries over Ross and Rachel on Friends. Gilder comments: “With men longing for the 'right to cry' or to stay home and nurture children, virility becomes a mere derivative of femininity” (Men and Marriage ix).
A metrosexual works alongside women, supports the right to choose, and shares a residence with a domestic partner. His college dorms were coed and he shared a bathroom with female students. His relationship with his partner is one of equality: she does not want children any more than he does, and may make even more money. This male was raised by parents who both worked and his masculine identity was diluted by the public school system. Instructed from babyhood in the ways of androgyny, contemporary males shared trucks, GI Joe’s, and soccer games with Susie next door. This metrosexual type of man treats women as equals, which is fine because
The metrosexual has companionship, emotional involvement, and sex, but at what price? His response to the female is redirected through a rainbow-colored lens that “humanizes” him—lest his maleness prove offensive. His acceptance in society is a tenuous one at best because it is conditioned by his ability to emasculate himself.
Conversely, the opposite hero is the Hugh Hefner-Arnold Schwarzenegger-Wilt Chamberlain-James Bond-ideal of manhood, which boasts of exploiting women and equates manhood with virility and phallic acumen. Such a male takes pride in the fact that he does not ‘need’ a woman, and for him marriage is an encumbrance. These men loudly proclaim their independence from women, yet ironically seem to be obsessed with them—or at least the female form. Perhaps there is a natural tendency of the sexes to long for one another, despite what we are taught?
Gilder believes that “[W]ithout a durable relationship with a woman, a man’s sexual life is a series of brief and temporary exchanges, impelled by a desire to affirm his most rudimentary masculinity. But with love, sex becomes refined by selectivity, and other dimensions of personality are engaged and developed” (Sexual Suicide 37).
He continues by arguing that a male’s “… sexual drive lends energy to his love and his love gives shape, meaning, and continuity to his sexuality. When he selects a specific woman, he in essence defines himself to both himself and in society. Every sex act thereafter celebrates that definition and social engagement” (37). Consequently, the lone male represented by the second model of manhood effectively has no “definition or social engagement.” On a primordial level, his sexual activity fails to place him in society. This male roves about, seeking conquests to validate his malcontented manhood. He is not ‘tamed’--as Gilder suggests a man will be when enraptured by the love of one woman. Instead, he remains at a very bestial level, and allows himself to be directed by an incessant urge to define himself by his sexual prowess. Perhaps in his subconscious the male is aware that he is being forced into a role that is unsatisfying, but at least he has a role. The hyper-masculine ideal has not yet been taken from him, and as long as it continues to offer a portion of happiness, he will thus remain.
For some males, the aforementioned example may be seen as safe because it does not demand that testosterone be siphoned away by career feminists and the liberal media as in the metrosexual option. Rather, males are guaranteed a level of masculinity that appeals to sexual drives—but ultimately fails when placed in a context of the deepest yearnings of the human heart.
Hugh Hefner has succeeded in his mission: with the assistance of biotechnology, a generation or two of males has been transformed into a gigolo cult. Free from responsibility, the male is able to revel in his ‘sexuality’ and find love wherever he pleases. Unfortunately, all this ‘free’ indulgence comes with a price: the twenty-first century male finds himself good for nothing else than to render his services as a stud. Maggie Gallagher writes:
Consequently, Hefner and his legions do derive a sexual identity from their promiscuity, but it is a primitive, empty, stultified substitute for that of loyal guardian of home and family.
Men’s magazines are harbingers of both the hyper-masculine and the metrosexual—as if there already was not enough confusion about sexual difference. A gin ad on the back of the January 2004 issue of Men’s Journal displays Hugh Hefner ogling two voluptuous young blondes above the caption “Hef says to drink responsibly.” The same issue offers articles on purchasing “Great Jeans”(68), one entitled “Eat More, Lose More” (26), and one on “Iron Yoga”(23). Such titles—with a bit of adjusting—could be found in a women’s magazine, and obviously reflect the trend towards androgyny. In an effort to appeal to more traditional male interests, January’s Men’s Journal also boasts titles such as “Muscle Cars” (34), and “Football Party”(31). The juxtaposition between articles on special forces soldiers and dieting is disquieting—and indicative of a larger problem of male alienation. GQ also witnesses to this disturbing dualism: on page 202 of the December 2003 issue, there is an article entitled “Dispatch: What Lurks behind the Gates of Guantanamo?” and page 279 provides “Fashion Directories: What’s in Store for You!”
In the realm of the sexual, both models—the metrosexual and the hyper-masculine--fall short of the ideal of monogamous union. The ages-old ideal that the family is the foundation for civilization has vanished amidst the maelstrom of feminism and biotechnology. We are indoctrinated to believe the semantics fed us by the liberal media; logical fallacies that affirm the joys of non-committed sex, and freedoms from religious or personal ‘hang-ups.’ We have come to understand that
In times past, it was nearly impossible financially and socially for a woman to raise a child on her own (Tiger 53). She faced ostracism and penury as a result of sexual license. Such stigmas were effective deterrents against premarital sex, and forced men to take responsibility for their actions. Certainly many shotgun weddings were a response to overactive libidos, but the fact remains that actions—at least until recently—had consequences. Men could not impregnate many women and be free to carry on as they wished: “In a civilized society, [a male] will not normally be able to claim his children if they are born to several women”(Sexual Suicide 37). When married, men were expected to provide for their families, and while doubtless many times failed, they were held accountable for the financial stability of their families. If males wanted to maintain a place in society, they could not abandon their duties.
The logical consequences of the contraceptive mentality (the Pill, IVF, cloning, parthenogenesis) seem to indicate that there is no biological urge for monogamy and parenthood. Instead, we have been convinced that everyone has a right to sexual experimentation, and to force gender roles upon men and women is a heinous imposition. Tiger believes that “One major result of newly heightened paternity seems clear: Men are less willing than ever in history to marry single women who become pregnant”(49). Biotechnology opened the floodgates of sexual license, and with this, a move towards making men expendable. The Pill has provided unfathomed possibilities for men in search of sexual experience. In ages past, men had other means of distinguishing themselves and affirming their masculinity:
Contemporary society smiles upon sexual peccadilloes and relies on prurience as a way of expressing manhood. Violent crime, sports, and promiscuity have replaced fatherhood, courage, and bravery as manly: “Violence stands in for action but also in a way of concealment, a threatening mask that hides a lack of purpose” (Faludi 37).
The only reason a woman has any sort of ‘need’ now for a man is for sexual pleasure, providing that she is not a lesbian. She does not need him to marry her, provide for her—or even impregnate her. As a result, the ways for men to survive in an age of androgyny are equally unsavory: emasculate themselves or assume a macho demeanor that indicates that a male is likewise able to survive without a woman.
Until the twentieth century, children were conceived in more or less the same fashion, and typically were raised by a mother and father in a committed, monogamous relationship. She nourished and loved as only a woman can, and her husband nourished and loved in a correspondingly masculine way. Sexual difference was clear. The father was primarily responsible for providing necessities of life; and he was also involved in the training and education of his children. The primary responsibility of the mother was the care of her home and nurture of her family. Because the home was organically connected to the rest of society, however, a woman’s opportunity and influence extended outside her home as well--sometimes including employment.
This is not to say that married life was blissful until the twentieth century, or that men universally were faithful to their wives or good providers for their children. Certainly some men fell abysmally short of the ideal, but in general it is safe to assert that children were raised by two parents who were married to one another. In the present age, with women crowding the workforce and demanding equal rights, men have less incentive than ever to offer permanent support for their families. According to societal standards, men no longer identify themselves the financial support of the family, the representative both guarding and connecting the family to the outside world.
Gilder says of this phenomenon:
Zimmerman, in an accolade to condom use, epitomizes the rupture between the sexes and procreation:
An inevitable yet tragic consequence of the campaign against men is an ill-disguised hostility towards boys: “In the war against boys, as in all wars, the first casualty is truth” (Sommers 16). There is nothing left for them, no distinctly male means of expressing their masculine identity. Sommers believes that this movement has been a systematic effort on the part of feminists to promote androgyny. A trend has manifested itself that expostulates on the violent behavior of boys, and speaks fearfully of adolescent boys as hostile and volatile. The natural tendency of males towards aggression and competition must assert itself in some form, and unfortunately aggression has been channeled into violence. Regardless, ascribing this moniker to all boys is unjust:
Like men, boys have no place in a society that promotes a race of “human beings” who are, in the same way as women, loving, ‘nice’, and compassionate—in other words, androgynous. Male virtues are obviated or subsumed by the female, and men are left with a hollow shell of masculinity. Sommers says further: “American boys face genuine problems that cannot be addressed by constructing new versions of manhood. They do not need to be “rescued” from their masculinity” (15). Gilder and Sommers both articulate the problem of alienation in males, and Sommers in particular identifies the way in which boys are vilified by a society that sees them as defective or harmful.
From boyhood, men are told that trucks are for both little girls and little boys, and Tiffany can be just as good a firefighter or policeperson as Tyler. However, contrary to popular opinion, natural tendencies are exhibited from childhood:
Throughout human existence, there has been an heroic ideal of manhood that did not necessarily reflect that of good husband and father. Odysseus, while being a triumphant and much-lauded character, really would not conform to any idea of marital fidelity or responsible parenthood. Likewise, knights, explorers, and warriors were all essentially solitary actors, and not bound to any hearth. However, even with all this heroic wanderlust, the majority of these heroes did return home.
Don Giovanni is a pathetic figure; how many men really want to be alone when they are faced with growing old? Until the present day, the question was rhetorical. In contemporary society, the role model for men has ceased to be heroic and has been replaced by the divorced, silk-pajama-clad, Viagra’d Hugh Hefner. But is this icon, who continues, in his seventies, to be feted by blondes who clamor for his attention truly an ideal?
Biotechnology has made it possible to posit that natural human desires for stable, committed relationships are passé—a lingering legacy from a repressed age. This is not to say that previous ideals of manhood, such as the cowboy or Odysseus, were commendable and worthy of imitation. However, despite the popularity of such icons, manhood on the whole did not reflect a trend towards abandoning family or living free on the open range. Faludi suggests that
Sexual difference is not an aberration. Males and females are created male and female, not androgynous. Neither are they diametrically opposed to each other, and in actuality are made for union:
Gender cannot be treated as something to be overcome or obviated; male and female were created for union with one another in a way that cannot be expressed by any other means. Gilder says further:
Biotechnology has stripped away the unitive aspect of sexuality, and has left men veritable eunuchs, rendered dispensable even in the realm of contributing sperm to fertilize an egg. A man’s very physical presence has become unnecessary. Biotechnology has facilitated the realization of every male’s dream, or so we are led to believe. What has resulted are two generations of alienated, emasculated males who have access to open relationships with a multiplicity of willing women. Has unlimited, uncommitted sex produced a score of healthy, well-adjusted ‘human beings’ (formerly known as men)? Biotechnology, feminism, and the media to the contrary, men are not dispensable, and must be aware that their masculinity is not something to be overcome or exaggerated:
Even the media and biotechnology cannot strip away the fundamental orientation of male and female to one another—an orientation that reflects the differences between the sexes.
Chute, David and Horowitz, Mark. “The Fifty Greatest Guy Movies of All Time.” Men’s Journal December 2003: 82-93.
Faludi, Susan. Stiffed: the Betrayal of the American Man. NY: William Morrow & Company, Inc., 1999
Gallagher, Maggie. Enemies of Eros. Chicago: Bonus Books, Inc., 1989.
Gentleman’s Quarterly. Table of Contents. December 2003: 32
Gilder, George. Men and Marriage. Gretna: Pelican Publishing Company, 1987.
_____. Sexual Suicide. NY: Bantam Books, 1973.
Men’s Journal. Table of Contents. January 2004: 6
Miles, Jonathan. “A Good Year for Men: the Best and Worst Trends of 2003 Add Up to a Boon for All of Us.” Men’s Journal December 2003: 43-44
Sommers, Christina Hoff. The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism is Harming Our Young Men. NY: Simon & Schuster, 2000.
Tiger, Lionel. The Decline of Males. NY: Golden Books, 1999.
Zimmerman, Mike. “Rubber Soul.” Men’s Health December 2003: 155-159;173
Version: 16th February 2004