Dear Dudes: Locker Room Talk Will Kill You

No kidding.

Just a few days back, a guy posted this on my Facebook feed:

Locker room talk is just that. It is all talk and does not make you a predator.

The idea being, I suppose, that locker room talk is harmless. Its just what men do… heh.

Okay, to begin with, of course locker room talk doesn’t mean that every man who indulges in it is a predator, but it most certainly perpetuates a culture in which predators can hide. The term “locker room talk” is literally designed to insulate men who speak this way, as if they exist in some kind of mythical man-only space. There is no such space. These words are spoken in a world populated by the women and girls who must co-exist with us, along with the words, ideas and predators we grant refuge to.

The term “locker room talk” is a morally bankrupt excuse for what men choose to say and where we choose to say it, as if the context in which we say something somehow excuses the harm it represents.

But here’s something else that men also need to understand. Men need to understand how much damage locker room talk does TO MEN. The Man Box, the bullying and shaming enforcement of narrow and limiting ideas about manhood, (otherwise known as childhood for American boys) is all about defining “feminine” traits like emotional expression and empathy as signs of weakness in men. These powerful human emotional capacities are not inherently feminine, we are all born with them, but defining emotional connection as “girly” and then denigrating women serves to intentionally suppress these powerful relational capacities in boys and men. Eventually, they fade away.

It is through emotional expression that we learn to connect in more authentic and lasting ways, form more vibrant friendships and create community. And it is in authentic relationships that we create the resiliency we need to get us through times of economic or personal crisis.

Instead, locker room talk teaches men to bond by denigrating all things feminine. We hide our authentic selves, suppressing our capacity to form meaningful relationships, romantic or otherwise. We fall in line, forming surface level friendships, conforming to an abusive, pecking order driven version of manhood.

The result? Men in our culture are bullied into suppressing their authentic emotional selves, severely limiting their capacity to connect in lasting friendships and relationships, resulting in what a 2010 AARP survey revealed to be an epidemic of loneliness affecting one in three Americans age 45 and older. That’s 42 million Americans.

The health effects of long term social isolation are equal to that of smoking increasing the likelihood of diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, obesity and cancer. Cancer metastasizes faster in lonely people.

So, let’s review:
 Locker room talk contributes to — — -> Emotional self suppression contributes to — — — → Chronic social isolation contributes to — — — → depression, stress related illnesses, cancer, heart disease, whatevs, contributes to — — — → Jack, you dead.

Men can live richer fuller lives, connect in powerful ways and be fulfilled.

Locker room talk is the opposite of that.

***

Photo by: Achim

Read more by Mark Greene:
Why Do We Murder the Beautiful Friendships of Boys?

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Get a powerful collection of Mark Greene’s articles in his book REMAKING MANHOOD–Available now at Amazon.