The Dispensability of Men

William E. May
© Culture of Life Foundation 2009
Reproduced with Permission
Culture of Life Foundation

"Boys will be doofuses."

Kevin Ryan, in an essay with this title on "MercatorNet"1 begins with a citation from Mark Penn, "the social trend guru," in which Penn declares: "Men are now lagging women in every major category from lifestyle to health, from education to employment." Ryan considers some major causes of this phenomenon. The primary factor for this, he thinks, is that "many, many boys are lacking what the psychologists call 'role models,' most important of which is a visible, present father." In a short time, "the shape of the American family has undergone radical surgery and the part most obviously cut away is Dad. A 50 percent divorce rate, plus simple walk-away separations are well known factors in the dismal family landscape." (Ryan claims that this trend began at the end of World War II. I believe he errs in this -- it began, as I will show, with the rise of feminism and widespread use of contraceptives associated with that rise during the 1960s).

But Ryan is surely on target when he declares: "…what is adding high octane to the toasting of the family is the fatherless family. Currently in the US, 40 percent of children are born to single mothers. From day one, these usually under-educated and low-skilled women carry the full freight of children-raising, especially in the Black community, where the out-of-wedlock birth rate is over 70 percent." Moreover, "the new 21st century family-fashion among better educated women who haven't found a suitable mate or don't want all the aggravation is a trip to the sperm bank for a designer baby…. In these father-absent homes, girls, at least, can watch mom and learn the skills they need to negotiate life's twists and turns. At home, boys rarely learn their fundamental roles of how to work, how to compete and, all-important, how to protect the women in their lives."

George Gilder's 1973 prophetic forecast of the consequences of feminist ideology and contraception

In 1973 Gilder published Sexual Suicide (New York: Quadrangle/Signet, 1973). He points out that feminists and their allies, among them Hugh Hefner and Playboy philosophers, "are united in their desire to separate sexual activity as much as possible from procreation." They go well beyond a search for better contraceptives and "are not satisfied to control the biological tie between intercourse and childbirth. They also want to eliminate the psychological and symbolic connection," foreseeing "a time when artificial means may be employed for human reproduction. By far the most frequent and durably most important long-term use of sex, they would say, is the fulfillment of the physical and psychological need for orgasmic pleasure and the communication of affection. For those purposes, sex is most adaptable if it is not connected with procreation, if it is regarded as a completely separate mode of activity" (33-34).

He then affirms that one effect of this "is to dethrone procreative genital intercourse as the normative form of sexual activity - the pattern toward which all other modes of sexuality are seen to aspire and from which they flow." He goes on to say: "The ideology of nonprocreative sex is no trivial matter" (35). He writes: "[P]rocreative genital intercourse stands at the crux of sexual differentiation." Since it is the normative pinnacle of sexual relationships, "our sexual differences are of supreme importance; attempts to disparage them will founder on the irreducible realities of the sex act itself…" Then, in a most important passage he declares: "Love performs its most indispensable role in inducing males to submit to female cycles of sexuality….men must adopt a sexual mode responsive to the expended female pattern - proceeding through pregnancy, childbirth, and nurture…the female pattern entails a concern for the future, a sense of growth and evolution, a need for gratifying gratifications, a desire for durable and stable relationships….In civilized societies the majority of men have come to recognize that it is the female time orientation that offers the highest rewards….A man must choose a particular woman and submit to her sexual rhythms if he is to have children of his own. His love defines his choice. His need to choose evokes his love" (36-37). In short, it is only, Gilder proclaims, in marriage and family that both males and females truly fulfill themselves as sexual beings and severing sexual activity from procreation, regarding them as "two separate modes of activity," is sexual suicide.

Sexual Suicide in fact renders men dispensable

In his book The Decline of Males (New York: Golden Books, 1999), the famous sociologist Lionel Tiger declared: "There is a major shift in the productive sphere, to the apparent advantage of females. In the reproductive realm, females can now control contraception and, hence, conception" (33). By the beginning of the 21st century biotechnology has given us such 'miracles' as IVF, thousands of cryopreserved embryos, and work is progressing on the "cloning" of either for "reproductive" or "research" purposes. All these processes increase the divide between the sexes and heighten the mechanization of sexual intercourse. Cloning in fact will render males utterly superfluous: even male sperm is increasingly unnecessary for this "advancement." Even today, with feminism and its allies on a very basic level, the only purpose of a male is to provide stud service. The male has become dispensable.

One of my former students, Elizabeth Pietropaoli (see her essay "Making Men Dispensable: Biotechnology, the Media, and the Fate of the Male"; accessible at, drew my attention to the two different ways contemporary American society offers for males: the metrosexual and the hyper-masculine. Jonathan Miles gives details of the metrosexual in his article, "A Good Year for Men: the Best and Worst Trends of 2003 Add Up to a Boon for All of Us." In Men's Journal (December 2003, 43-44), he notes that this term was popularized most notably in a New York Times article predicting that America "might be on the verge of a metrosexual movement." The article describes the metrosexual male as "the sensitive, open, warm, almost overtly androgynous guy, who champions women's rights, works alongside women, supports the right to choose, and shares a residence with a domestic partner…" 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. On metrosexual males see

The opposite hero is the Hugh Hefner-Arnold Schwarzenegger-James Bond-ideal of manhood, which boasts of exploiting women and equates manhood with virility and phallic acumen. Such males take pride in the fact that they do not "need" a woman, and for them marriage is an encumbrance. They proclaim their independence from women, yet ironically seem to be obsessed with them - or at least the female form.

Hugh Hefner has succeeded in his mission: with the assistance of biotechnology, males have been transformed into wimps or gigolos. Free from responsibility, they can revel in their 'sexuality' and find love wherever they please. 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. Both models - the metrosexual and the hyper-masculine - are utterly different from a man who chooses a particular woman, and she him, as a spouse with whom both can raise and educate children born of their marital union. The idea that the family rooted in marriage is the foundation for civilization has disappeared with contraception, artificial modes of reproduction, and feminist ideology. As Pietropaoli says: "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.'"

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. Today violent crime, sports, and promiscuity have replaced fatherhood, courage, and bravery as manly characteristics: Pietropaoli calls attention to Susan Faludi's Stiffed: the Betrayal of the American Man. (NY: William Morrow & Company, Inc., 1999). Faludi declares: "Violence stands in for action but also in a way of concealment, a threatening mask that hides a lack of purpose" (Faludi 37). It seems that the only reason a woman has "'need" today 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.

Faludi further observes: "The old model of masculinity showed men how to be part of a larger social system; it gave them a context and promised them that their social contributions were the price of admission to…adult manhood. That kind of manhood required a society in order to prove itself. Ornamental culture has no such counterparts…it is a ceremonial gateway to nowhere. In an age of celebrity, the father has no body of knowledge or authority to transmit to the son" (35).

Pietropaoli concludes her study by writing: "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."

A counter movement?

There are signs that some men are beginning to initiate a counter movement, evident in such groups as "promise keepers." Some Catholic dioceses, for instance, the Archdiocese of Denver, are introducing popular programs such as This Man is You, receiving enthusiasm from both men and women, meant to introduce men to the basic meaning of manhood, husbandhood, and fatherhood. The program in Denver began in Texas and is now found in 14 states and parts of Canada (see I think that the Catholic and indeed Christian world, at least in the US, is slowly waking up to the dramatic emasculation of the male that took place in the second half of the 20th century, and is beginning to make a response.


1 [Back]