If I had a dollar for every single time I’d heard a woman say, “Men need to open up and not hold in their feelings,” or, “I don’t understand why men can’t just be comfortable talking about their feelings,” or, if you’ve ever wondered why men don’t complement one another, then read on…I have a story for you. I’ll admit, that even as much as I’m a proponent of us guys embracing our male vulnerability, owning our feelings no matter how good or bad, and being upfront with others about them always, I must breathe out a sigh of understandable disappointment every once in a while when I realize just how hard that is to do. I myself, as well as other men who are very comfortable in themselves and with their feelings, simply cannot become comfortable complimenting other men and, even if we do it, talking about our feelings will always be an uncomfortable act.
Women never understand this. To men, it’s just the “bro code,” the unwritten law that all men follow everywhere and women are baffled by that says we don’t take the directly next to another man (unless all other urinals are taken) and we don’t compliment each other or ever open up…ever. But why is that?
I got to thinking about it and, interestingly enough, the answer to this question came from one of my stories that most of my readers would call Feminist-leaning, What Most Guys Don’t Understand About Why Women Don’t Date Nice Guys…you know, this idea that when guys interact with women they usually (but not always) put on a fake mask of niceness, an imposter costume draped in sincere caring and affinity, one which is so rapidly dissolved at the very first sign of resistance, the very first hint that after all of his hard efforts, she might not give him sex…most men utilize niceness as a counterfeit currency that they try to trade for sex with women — this is usually unsuccessful — as I said in that story:
To put it in more philosophically descriptive terms, the niceness was only a secondary condition, a conditional property, and instrumental utility of the expectations implied in the niceness — the niceness wouldn’t have happened without the expectation, and once these guys get rejected, they often turn vicious, enraged, degrading, and even violent. They retort, calling women all sorts of degrading names to reclaim their bruised ego and sense of injured pride and merit. Why? Because the expectation of sex or romance was the primary reason for the interaction, and niceness was simply a disguise that masked the true intention of sex. Nice guys aren’t nice, they’re usually imposters wearing a niceness suit.
Human interactions aren’t transactions. Women aren’t vending machines that we put niceness coins into and sex magically falls out. It’s my observation, and I think many women will confirm this observation, that niceness showed to them by men always seems to come with some form of expectations attached.
A quick glance at the comments section of that story will show plenty of men outraged by this notion and plenty of women who faithfully confirm that, yes, this is almost always the case. But what are the effects of this type of behavior by men on other men?…what are the consequences?
Reflecting back on my life and that was just always ‘the way it is,’ it was tradition, nothing more, nothing less. We live in a society where the sexes are segregated from a very young age and while there are reasons for this, there are also consequences as well. For us men, we’re almost exclusively around other boys who are similarly learning the transactional relationship style.
The fact is, boys and men are simply taught to be more aggressive and hostile from a young age. We probably get this from our fathers, or, absent a father figure, from media. We live in a patriarchy, after all, one that values hierarchy and competition quite fondly and won’t budge an inch that perhaps cooperative ideas might produce a more cohesive society. The violence in society seems to be unilaterally coming from men, men who were once boys, boys surrounded by other boys and men, all of whom were instructed by our social framework that forever remains only vaguely challenged to dominate.
Violent culture begets violent people which establish a violent culture.
Contrasting the men in our society who put on the suit of niceness in order to obtain what they want, we have women who seem to share their feelings, often at length, with a seeming impunity that often makes even the most liberal of us men cringe — we cringe because the concept of hierarchy is so deeply engrained, specifically the hierarchy predicated upon dominance, one which is reinforced with violence. Keeping this idea in mind, it’s no wonder that men don’t share their feelings, they don’t complement one another, they don’t open up, and they walk around guarded — men, in my experience, deal with violence much more often than women do, even if men themselves are the ones who most often dish it out. I think that most women don’t feel that they can be themselves when they’re out on a date with most men for the exact same reason, only, for women, a date is a once-in-a-while thing: men, on the other hand, are immersed in the culture of other men.
As I’ve discussed elsewhere on the subject of human violence and the excellent book by Robert Sapolsky, The Trouble With Testosterone, puts beautifully, testosterone itself doesn’t cause violence — violent conditions and a hostile, hierarchical environment create more testosterone in the organisms that live in it. It’s understandable that this creation of testosterone might be a survival adaptation, one which helps the organism to survive in a competitive, aggressive environment. This is what it means to be male, especially in the United States of America.
Testosterone also increases reckless behaviors which are prone to lead to violence, rather than violence itself, behaviors like a lust for glory, competition, honor in domination, and more — extremely few people become violent when it comes time to suck up to their boss and try to get a raise. The fact that the violent behavior in humans and primates alike with more testosterone stops at members higher on the social ladder is evidence that it’s not universal, but an outgrowth of a violent culture.
Ergo, violent culture begets violent people which establish a violent culture. So, what’s the solution? I hate to say it, but I think we’re going to need to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater, here: we can’t simultaneously support a culture rife with competitive values and dominance worship, all-the-while expecting its constituent members to play nice and be, well, quite like peaceful human beings. Can we separate the idea of competition in the free market from the competition in our personal lives? I think not. Such competitive structures inevitably permeate everything that we do.
This explains the gut-level, visceral response we men get when it comes time to actually start complimenting other men, sharing what we really feel, and so forth; even us men who have come to consciously realize the problem with this social model still have trouble with it — it’s so deep within us that it’s intuitive that we be on guard. This reinforces the incorrect idea that hierarchical life is somehow natural in human beings…it’s not, and it’s definitely not to the extent that our culture which seems to have fetishized competition tells us it is.
We can’t expect to advocate a winner-take-all type of society and not also expect there to be angry, disgruntled individuals who turn to violence when they lose the game of musical chairs of competitive life. In nature, more aggressive primate societies display the same tendencies, with aggressive and low-status males erupting in violent outbursts when they realize they’ve lost the game and that they’ll never move up the social ladder. With the continuing rise of mass-shootings, everyone is talking about gun legislation while so few are talking about the competitive society that inevitably weeds lonely members of it out, but only after teaching them to fight with all of their might, lest they are left behind. It would behoove us to push to develop a society that was inclusive to everyone, and I mean everyone.
The patriarchy has to go and while the women of today are fighting harder than ever, I challenge the men of today to do the same and see some rising up and taking the lead, and of them, I am extremely proud. Simply put, exploitation, dominance, and abuse aren’t cool anymore — people are tired of it and they have been for a very long time…nothing more than tradition is holding us back from a more cooperative society. It will be hard, but we must break the chains that bind us, the chains of discomfort in exposing our innermost selves to the world — so that we may finally be free.
The book The Trouble With Testosterone: And Other Essays On The Biology Of The Human Predicament which was referenced in this story can be found here on Amazon; I may make a small commission from any purchases made through this link. His work is extremely eye-opening and can help us to understand who we are on the most fundamental level. Here’s another story to complement this perspective: