What About the Menz: A Brief Book Preview
I finished the first draft of my book two weeks ago. At 53,000 words, 102 US letter pages of single-spaced, size 12 Times New Roman font, it is the longest and largest thing I have ever written. I'm entering the editing stage, and thought it might not be a bad idea to start sharing some snippets for discussion. These snippets may or may not end up in the final book (that's the editing process for you!), but I thought they might do to stir some discussion and hopefully whet your appetite for the book itself.
The section I'm sharing today is from a late-added chapter about the experience of men in purity culture. One thing I've been realizing a lot lately is how purity culture infantilizes men - it treats them as insatiable sexual beasts, unable to control themselves. This view is pretty darn offensive when you give even two seconds thought of it - do we not have more faith in men? In light of Senator Chambliss' comments during the hearing about sexual assault in the military, it appears that this low view of men is alive and well.
One thing, too, I have noticed is the marriage of masculinity with a violent heterosexuality. The image of men as defenders and protectors of damsels in distress not only paints women as weak and unable to stand up for themselves, but also forces men toward violence. With that in mind, I want to share this section from the book. Keep in mind that it's rough!
Violence being a primary showpiece for masculinity creates a violence-oriented world. In America, boys are given toy guns and taught to play cops and robbers. Entertainment plays at violent masculinity and sexualized womanhood. And evangelical churches paint men as knights rescuing damsels in distresses - men as the violent active and women as the passive receiver of their violent action.
Perhaps one of the more disturbing things about this trend of violent masculinity is the mapping of these “virtues” onto the person of Christ Himself. Mark Driscoll has explained that the Jesus he worships is not some “neutered, limp-wristed popular Sky fairy,” or “Richard Simmons, hippie, queer Christ.” Instead, Driscoll says, he worships “a pride fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand, and the commitment to make someone bleed.”
Disturbing as that image is, it is a part of the evangelical attempt to save Christian masculinity from the feminization of the American church. Slow worship music, good lighting, talking about feelings - all these things are seen as feminine, and as the reason for men leaving the church. Therefore, the way to win men back is to marry Christ - the Christ who stayed Peter’s sword in the garden and who submitted himself to the utmost violence - with a violent, protective masculinity. The sacrificial Christ becomes a Clint Eastwood-type man who shoots first and asks questions later.
Having feelings, crying, expressing emotion in anything but anger or firmness? These are no-no’s in a violently strict masculine culture. Men are “wolves,” as Mark Driscoll paints them, in their most basic state. They are uncontrolled libido, violent tendencies, and unfeeling robots. Rather than challenge these ideas about what men are and what men can be, the new movement toward Christian masculinity demands that these “natural tendencies” are merely channeled into a worship of God. A violent man now becomes a protector. A man with an insatiable libido is merely a man and his wife must serve him. The man who cries during worship or who cries during times that are deemed “unmanly” is not holding up his end of the emotional bargain.
This type of masculinity defines manhood in terms of what it is not - women are tender; therefore men are firm and violent. Women are weepy; therefore men cannot be. Women are servants in the bedroom; therefore men are the colonial masters. In response to a feminist world in which all genders are equal, evangelical men have been taking back their power by taking back masculinity, and making it about whatever an arbitrary womanhood is not.