'Gentleman': A concept put asunder

  • Article by: D.J. TICE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 11, 2014 - 6:28 PM

Society could use more than a few good men who are neither wimps nor barbarians.

Photo: Dean Rohrer • NewsArt,

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PICKERING: Higgins, are you a man of good character where women are concerned?

HIGGINS: Have you ever met a man of good character where women are concerned?

“Pygmalion,” George Bernard Shaw, 1912

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The company of women no longer brings out the best in young men. Around the opposite sex, the adolescent and post-adolescent males of today are at their worst.

“Wimps and Barbarians: The Sons of Murphy Brown,” Terrence O. Moore, 2004

 

 

• • •

 

Last month’s horrific mass murder near the University of California, Santa Barbara, inspired once again a national outpouring of anguish and anger. But this time the main focus wasn’t guns or mental illness.

Instead, in a remarkable torrent of social media testimony, columns and blogs, American women responded to the shooter’s insane rage over his lack of sexual success with a chorus of disgust, despair and recognition.

Large numbers of American women seem to agree that while the murderer’s bloody actions were unusual, his attitudes were familiar. Large numbers complain of living today under a siege of sexual belligerence, routinely subjected to everything from lewd heckling to outright assault, and seldom protected from any of it by other men.

In April, the Obama administration responded to a reported epidemic of sexual violence on campus with the inevitable task force report. Among its “most promising prevention strategies” is “bystander intervention” — a “program,” according to news reports “designed to change social norms and encourage people … to intervene [to] prevent sexual assault,” which often occurs, bystanders and all, at campus parties.

The competition is fierce, but this dispatch may qualify as the most depressing evidence unearthed to date of America’s cultural decline.

We now need a federal program to “change social norms” so that young men will understand their duty to protect women from aggressors.

Have they no fathers? Has no one ever taught them what it means to be a man? Have today’s “social norms” led them to believe that sex is just another contact sport in which one pursues trophies?

For decades now, a school of cultural conservative thought has lamented that the answer to such questions is far too often “yes.” Writers such as Christina Hoff Sommers, William Bennett and Terrence Moore, among others, have warned that the enlightened and liberated ethos of post-1960s America is failing in what is a pivotal challenge for every human society — socializing and civilizing young males.

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