Guyland Debunks The American Douchebag In Academic TermsAs I said on Thursday, I think I was a little too harsh on Guyland scribe, sociologist Michael Kimmel, when I discussed his appearance on the Today show. After reading the entirety of Guyland over the weekend, I definitely owe Kimmel an apology. Guyland is the province of American males ages 16 to 26 who are having difficulty launching as adults. The book is not only about a "guy" culture drenched in sexual and physical violence, but it's also about teaching those young men to take responsibility for themselves and their behavior — especially where women are concerned. These young, usually white, middle class guys are loath to act like men, or really, human beings, because of three cultural dynamics as named by Kimmel: a culture of entitlement, a culture of silence, and a culture of protection.Kimmel's theory goes something like this. Back in the day, middle class white men were entitled, but they generally got the jobs, the homes, and the social status they felt they deserved. But ever since the goals of the civil and women's rights movements have come to (some) fruition, middle class white men have found themselves competing with minorities and women for the things they felt they deserved as their birthright. These days, white male entitlement is thwarted, and it doesn't make white males any less hubristic; it just makes them angry. Kimmel's point is not that all young white men are angry. His point is more that a social structure has formed around these men that enables and encourages bad behavior. This is where the culture of silence and the culture of protection comes in. To illustrate the twin demons of silence and protection, Kimmel brings up the Glen Ridge Rape. In the infamous case, 13 popular athletes gathered in one boy's basement for a pre-arranged gang rape of a 17-year-old "slightly retarded" teenage girl. Six of the boys were so disturbed by what was about to commence that they left. But seven stayed, and those boys forced the girl to give them oral sex and forced various large and painful objects into the girl's vagina. While the crime itself is beyond appalling, what's more disturbing is that of those six guys who left, not a single one called the police or told his parents about what had happened. (The story is so epic that an excellent nonfiction book, Our Guys, was written about the Glen Ridge thirteen.) Of course, this is an extreme case, but who among us doesn't know someone who sat idly by when someone else was being bullied? And the parents - just as those in Joan Didion's 1993 New Yorker story on the Spur Posse of Lakewood, California - are implicated in the Glen Ridge guys' behavior too. Kimmel writes, "In the eyes of their friends, their parents, and their community, these guys were not pathological deviants. They were high-status athletes, well-respected in their schools and in their communities. They were not crazed psychotics, they were regular guys. Our guys." So where do women fit into Guyland? Peripherally, at best, Kimmel says, and when we're considered, we're in a double-bind. "[Young women] want to be smart and pretty, feminine and successful. Yet this leaves many of them feeling like they have to live up to two impossible standards…In a now famous study of the life of women on its campus, researchers at Duke heard a phrase that seemed to capture the core of this new femininity on campus: 'effortless perfection.' You can do it all, but you mustn't try too hard," or else you'll scare of those guys who are deeply afraid of an assertive woman, Kimmel says. "The appearance of effortless is the way young women reconcile such conflicting demands. 'I just happened to be beautiful and brilliant. I can't help it. Don't hold it against me.'" (This makes me think of Sarah Palin, who has continuously downplayed her success in the few days since she's been running for Vice President. Just today, Palin demurred, "I never really set out to be in public affairs, much less to run for this office." Because trying hard is icky! I digress.) There's a few ways that women, and all people, can prevent boys and men from being "guys." For parents, don't tell your kids that the sun shines out of their butts all the time. Give your children realistic ideas of what life holds for them and encourage hard work. For women, simply don't tolerate bad behavior. As Kimmel writes, "Feminism expects a man to be ethical, emotionally present, and accountable to his values in his actions with women — as well as with other men. Feminism loves men enough to expect them to act more honorably and actually believes them capable of doing so." Treating men like overgrown children incapable of making their own soup serves no one (and serves no one soup). I know, I know, much easier said than done. But wouldn't you rather be single than wasting your days with a lifetime resident of Guyland like Dante Moore, who makes you play by his rules? Michael Kimmel Official Website [Concert Ideas] Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men Related: Why I Am Leaving Guyland [Newsweek] Our Guys [Google Books] Trouble In Lakewood [New Yorker, abstract only] Earlier: Guyland Author: Working Women Leave A Lot of Men "Confused About Their Place" In Life Campbell's Decides That 30-Year-Old Men Are Capable Of Making Their Own Soup Dante Moore's Rules For Female "Re-Education" Include Cooking And Staying Skinny