This is Cate Dooley responding to your question about men. I think boys
and men long for and thrive with good connection. Research has shown that
married men live longer and are happier than single men. What does this
us? I think that boys and men are free-er to express themselves in real
outside of the confines of their public persona which calls for the banter
and bravado. Also, men and boys learn from girls and women how to be more
open and relational intimate within these relationships. It is safe for
boys to talk the language of relationship when they re-connect with girls
because girls want and expect it. The problem is that the early move away
from emotional and relational behaviors leaves them deficit in these
As a result we see adolescent boys drawn toward intimacy with girls, but
unable to sustain it for lack of knowing how to talk about feelings in a
relationship. Often boys of this age bolt from the relationship when issues
arise that the girls want to talk about. Boys tend to see this desire to
closer through talking as demands on them from the relationship. The result
can be frequent shifting sexual intimacies for boys. This of course can be
taken in stride as part of the sexual bravado of adolescent "boy culture"
can be devastating to the girls who feel personally rejected and that they
are too needy.
Another problem with the early gender stereotyping is that boys and
can't be friends without eventually the boy (and/or girl) being teased by
peers. The message to young boys is, if you are friends with a girl, she's
your "girlfriend" or you're a "sissy". So how do boys and girls learn to be
in real relationship with one another? Eventually, as they mature, the
culture gives "permission" for them to come together as sexual partners.
There is a real problem with precocious sexuality in the middle schools
boys and girls play out sexualized roles they see presented to them by the
media. This is the only way they know how to re-connect after the years of
de-valuing the other gender. I think boys miss out on the early relational
practice and act the way they see men are supposed to act in our culture.
the reality is that boys and men, given access to real talk and
have a great need to be in connection. We need to change the rules for boys
on an institutional level, which will be good not only for the boys but for
the girls who will be empowered by this shift.
These are some thoughts I have as to why men do appear to value
connection and family closeness. They are allowed by culture to be
with the women and children in their lives and they like and need (as we
do)this base of connection.
Thanks for your thoughts.
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