As much as I take a 'libertine' approach to the social stuff, I've observed a big shift in the behavior of mean since my own childhood. I'm not sure if it matters, but there's a BIG difference between mean my own age (30) and those who are only a few years younger. I think a big reason is that high-speed internet really became commonplace right as my group came-of-age, and all of the sudden, every young male had access to endless terabytes of tantalizing 'gonzo' porn video.
Combine that with the fearmongering over HIV/AIDS when we grew up, and you have an aversion to real physical contact with women. (I say 'fear-mongering' because HIV isn't a big enough problem to worry about in the developed world, outside of certain demographic groups)
Basically, men don't have to 'grow up' to get what their biology tells them to seek out anymore; they're free from their hormones, able to live in a greatly extended adolescence that can extend into their late 30s.
There is a lot here - too much to cover in one comment or even ten. I'll make a few observations:
Primal social dynamics are in play in many of life's social interactions and more than most people realize. Much of everday social behavior conforms to basic patterns of primate hierarchy and interaction. We have "alphas" who exert their status over others through dominant verbal and non-verbal behavior, and "betas" who are socially subordinate to them to various degrees. Tony Soprano's character is your stereotypical alpha male - Steve Jobs is another, illustrating that it's not just a physical phenomenon. The Big Bang Theory nerds are hyper-stereotypical examples of beta males - or possibly even omega males, they are so far removed from "the game." Of course they all get hot girlfriends because it's escapist television, but we all realize the ridiculousness of that outcome in the real world.
The most crude and obvious form of dominance is abuse - a commonly lamented and often effective method (e.g., bar jocks) - but it can come in much more benevolent and sophisticated forms. Dale Carnegie's work, for example, focuses on using control and social manipulation to resolve conflicts and achieve mutually beneficial outcomes. Use of space (proxemics), use of time (chronemics), dress, body language, verbal communication, exhibition of power and confidence - all of these are facets of alpha status signaling, or what the above articles characterize as "manly" behavior. The sexist classification is a mistake in my view. My female office director shows up late to meetings (because she CAN), uses most of the time talking, networks effectively, sets others' priorities - all typical alpha behaviors.
I argue that it's not a matter of what one does as much as how one does it. It's not whether somebody plays video games, or reads books, or joins chess tournaments, or contributes to political blogs, but whether one approaches these things in a dominant, socially attractive way. A "manly" person can make an uncool activity cool - others want to be around them and emulate them. They define their activities rather than letting their activities define them.
Mangeek - I see that too. Technology has let to no-complications instant gratification, a sort of short-temperedness and belief that everything should really be easy or that hurdles should be set really low. There is another discussion floating out there about the members of this generation (both men and women) being confronted with the real world vice the "you're all winners" environment they were raised in.
Dan - Interesting points and I think your argument aligns with the concept of the "Renaissance man" brought up by one of the contributors (I forget which). In short, real, modern men can like Jackass and Metropolitan and The Avengers and Downton Abbey.
Many good thoughts, but where do we go from here? Are we ever going to grow from a culture of laziness if we strive for equal outcomes vice equal opportunity?
We know what motivates most young men. Take a trip to Newport some summer night. Women dressed nicely, men less so. Why do women put up with this obvious disrespect? Why do they put up with boyfriends without jobs--and abuse, in some cases, from them? Do they not understand that they control the dance-- that if they set standards men would eventually rise to meet them? These men, caught up in a Peter-pan world will never change unless it gets uncomfortable.
Right now, the lack of discrimination by many women and the lack of personal responsibility required by our "progressive" masters don't bode well for positive change.
I am unable to intellectualize the problem, but I know I am disturbed when adult men part with an admonition to "stay safe". Can you imagine this from the "heroes" of another generation. Would John Wayne, or Clint Eastwood, mouth "stay safe"?
RE: Ron Swanson I notice he is manly enough to "go buying" as opposed to "going shopping".
I think it's a mistake to equate manliness with alphaness. Much of chivalry and honor codes is (or was) a way both to systematize the competition for top-dog and to give everybody on the scale an opportunity to answer such instincts for themselves.
Obnoxiousness (late because I can be) isn't manliness, except in the effeminate liberal cliche.
"Manliness" can mean different things to different people, but the hegemonic masculinity archetype that constitutes most of that concept is heavily based in primate-group biology. I don't think it's possible for a man to be both socially subservient and "manly" in any meaningful sense of that word. So it's at least in substantial part about social dominance.
I'm not sure how much experience you have operating within large organizational structures. Almost invariably, the higher up the individual is on the food chain, the longer they keep you waiting, the more time they spend talking in meetings, the more impatient they are, and the more they reschedule their appointments on you willy nilly, etc. It's offensive to the extent that being reminded of one's subordinate position is an ego-bruising experience. The behavior loses its obnoxiousness when you understand that it's simple status signaling as engrained in our biology as the hunger or sex drives, and it presents a number of opportunities for those who know how to capitalize upon them.
I think your point about chivalry supports my argument. There is no denying that "gentlemanly" behavior is - or at least was - largely about control. The man pays the bills, opens doors, etc. because he is dominant over the female and competitor males. Observe what happens when the beta male attempts some chivalry of his own by covering the meal:
The less masculine approach would have been to politely decline or even accept the gift as a kind gesture.
I think your use of the phrase "socially subservient" speaks directly to differences that make you a libertarian and me a social conservative with libertarian leanings. I see a higher truth and a higher calling in the suggestion that "he who would be first must be last"; others see a cynical subversion of the natural order.
Note especially the corporate behavior that you extrapolate from the "late because I can be" phrase. It is obnoxious, ultimately counterproductive, and, in its way, gratuitously wicked to leverage a position for the purpose of ego bruising. I don't find that manly at all, but petty and brutish.
Upper managers have more responsibilities, and as a matter of corporate assets, their time is more valuable. Dollar for dollar, if you have to wait 45 minutes for your five minutes of their time, it can still be a net plus, depending what they were doing that made them late.
Gentlemanly behavior like holding a door shouldn't be a statement of dominance, but a habitual practice, almost a ritual, intended to overcome the animalistic urge to topple those whom we can.
It's a common theme on social networking sites that men (boys?) in the current generation are rewarded with sex for 'doing chores' like vacuuming, laundry, and dishes.
The success of women in education and the workplace, combined with the decline in 'manly' jobs like construction has led to a proliferation in 'house-husbands'. Most of the house-husbands I know complain about the lack of intimacy at home. Most women admit to wanting a man who is 'gentlemanly but dominant', but their partners can't ever achieve that if they're relegated to day-care, cleaning, cooking, and dishes.
I think there is too much confusion here between "manly", "alpha males", "dominence", etc.
Much has been made of "Late because they can". At best, this is "status seeking". There is nothing manly about being unable to manage your time. An apology for delaying matters is not "unmanly".
We have all had meetings, interviews, where there was 5 minutes of shuffling papers before time was found for us, or we were "noticed" sitting there. This does not strike me as "manly". I see insecurity asserting itself. Being "dominate" by brute force does not succeed for long.
Not sure what I think of chivalry (medieval history is closely tied to the political beliefs of the historian), but "manners" are never out of place.
The question remains, "Are you still master of your domain?"
Revisiting the closing point of my first post, I don't think it's so much a matter of being rude or being courteous, or whether the individual provides a customary apology or not. Any of the above can be performed in a dominant or subordinate manner depending on context. The key element is who is bending to whom in the situation. Tony Soprano may apologize for showing up late, but the important point is that he showed up late and nothing will be done about it. If he does choose to apologize, the nicety is offered entirely on his terms because he wields the power. Similarly, if he shows up on time, it's because he decided to, not because it was required of him. The signaling is important because it puts everyone else on notice of the hierarchy that is in place. If there is a substantial difference between what is considered "manly" and what is considered "dominant," I can't discern what it is.
Dan, it appears you've taken the discussion into the realm of Power dynamics, which is understandable given the sub-text of feminism, etc. that lay at the heart of the discussion. I guess, as so often happens, the discussion becomes one caught up in defining terminology instead of the root issue. However, my impression was that the term "manliness" as it was being used here had much more to do with being a gentleman (and whether one wants to throw chivalry in or not as a corollary), not being self-centered (including if your at the top of the "power dynamic" pyramid) and just generally sucking it up and stop being such, well, weenies, really. That doesn't mean forsake emotions and all that, just stop being so thin-skinned, self-absorbed and high maintenance. And accept that you have to work for the baubles you think you're owed!
Following up on Marc's redirect... and offering the observation that a society modeled after Tony Soprano is probably not advisable, this side of the Middle Ages, I want to expand a bit on the dinner scenario, now that I've watched Dan's clip.
Subservience and who pays for dinner is separate from manliness. There are manlier ways the boyfriend could have gone about his intention. Indeed, it wasn't very manly to sneak off and secretly pay the bill, nor to sulk around outside the restaurant afterwards.
Similarly, there are manly and gentlemanly ways to acknowledge that somebody else is running the show. It doesn't all have to be about the fight for the top of the pyramid.
"Subservience and who pays for dinner is separate from manliness."
The seemingly simple rule I have always abided by is "the one that invites, pays". Don't see the difficulty.
If you judge yourself and your manhood by TV shows, or social media standards, or the old religion standards, you do not get it. And there is little hope for you.
What an interesting post and comments! One in particular caught my attention:
"If there is a substantial difference between what is considered "manly" and what is considered "dominant," I can't discern what it is."
Manliness is strength, but strength is not dominance. Manliness is courage, good moral character and ethics, kindness, a charitable heart, and humility. Honor, truth telling, standing up for what is right, standing up for and protecting the vulnerable and weak, and being willing to stand up and fight for all of those things is manly. Living by a moral code, whether the ten commandments or simply "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is manly.
Sadly for our culture and the future, the denigration of the traditional family has left many young men and women at sea as to what constitutes manliness. What was once taught by fathers to their sons AND daughters has been lost in the culture of divorce, single mothers, weekend fatherhood, sexual promiscuity, baby-daddys, 'everyone's a winner', and lack of personal responsibility. Those cultural changes have resulted in a younger generation that is morally, ethically and spiritually weaker and therefore much easier to manipulate. Men have no idea what their role is, and women haven't a clue what to choose in a mate, they are either just 'giving it away to anyone who wants it', or choosing a mate with the notion that they can raise children on their own, after all, there's the government to provide.
What the women of the 60s and 70s wanted was equal opportunity. Women wanted to be counted for all of the qualities that manliness encompasses, and to be able to demonstrate those qualities in jobs and professions and arenas previously off limits to them.
At some point the feminist movement was bastardized by the sexual revolution that never helped but only hurt women. Rather than continue to be encouraged to develop the strong moral, ethical and spiritual characters of their mothers and fathers, women were sold on promiscuity making them 'just like men'. The moral dumbing down of women worked out nicely for men, and free sex was the feminism that men could appreciate and so men jumped on the free-love bandwagon. Unfortunately, the majority of those women ended up in much worse positions than their mothers who grew up in the 50s, and the men didn't end up happy either. living as weekend dads, support payments for kids they had no day to day relationship with and whose upbringing they had little influence in - all that having been turned over to daycare because no, divorced people are not economically equal to the married couple with children and divorced moms have to work.
Divorce became acceptable, men didn't support their families, boys/men didn't marry the girls/women they got pregnant. Instead of admitting the sexual revolution was not working out for women, "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle" became a mantra of single and divorced women who talked their married female friends into believing it whenever things got a little tough in the marriage. Where married people had stuck together and seen it through the rough times, divorce had become less of a stigma, until it was more than okay, it was now expected. We even came up with "no fault" divorce to make everyone feel better about it, and told young people that more than 50% of married couples divorce.
You can rightfully argue that a single female doesn't need a male, but a pregnant female with a low paying job and no education needs a provider and father in the household. Sadly, the provider has turned out to be the rest of us and the father's role in children's lives has been almost completely replaced by the government. Yes, we financially reward women for not identifying their baby daddys.
Manliness does not require brute force or domination of others, but it does require the courage to at least attempt to protect oneself and others who cannot protect themselves. Of course manliness also encompasses basic civility such as opening doors and showing respect for others, which is simply kindness.