Developmental Stages in Men's Conditioning
Created By: Paul Whyte on 06/24/1997 at 11:46 AM
Category: Men


To understand how men are coerced into our gender roles and blocked from our rational humanity, we can look at the developmental stages in men's conditioning.

Birth - Gender conditioning begins at birth. Studies with babies show that little boys get less attention than little girls, with the boys more often being held so they are pointed away from the person they are with. Many men don't know what to do if they get someone's complete attention. The feeling of isolation can often be traced to this early training.

Weaning - After weaning, boys are trained to be little men - not to cry, but to go off and handle things alone. When a boy's ability to feel or express feelings is interfered with not only is his understanding of himself taken away but also his ability to understand and empathize with others.

Primary School - The great lie in the area of gender is that it is better to be male than female. Little boys have to prove that they are better than others as a matter of survival. At the start of school, boys find themselves in a `beat or be beaten' culture where little boys are beaten up until they can beat others up. Boys are beaten up for not being `male' enough. The two categories of not-male-enough are: girls, and "sissies" ("mummies boys", "poofters", "sickoes etc. The names vary with every place and culture, but you'll hear the current version in every school playground at every break. Girls are hated and abused at this stage with names like "girls germs."

The anti-homosexual or wimp abuse in society limits the kind of boy you can be. Boys are abused and abused and abused until anything resembling qualities associated with girls, "poofters" "wimps", etc. is hidden. These include the qualities needed for an easy emotional life and for interaction with other human beings. It is a choice that every male makes to survive the culture. Later on, anytime a man leaves the traditional conditioned male role he is subject to anti-gay abuse irrespective of his sexual preference or he is attacked for being a wimp. It is not surprising that men feel their lives are threatened if their manhood is called into question, since it was fear of death that conditioned this version of manhood in the first place. The men's movement is often labelled as "queer", "strange", etc. due to its questioning of the male role. Most people still only see males as the stereotype and if they are not the stereotype "they must be personally flawed in some way".

High School Sexual Conditioning - After having being isolated first from girls, in high school it is no longer permitted for boys to be close to other boys. It is it is at this stage that sexual conditioning begins. Adolescent boys are supposed to "get laid" to prove their manhood. A boy's sexuality is supposed to be: compulsive, impersonal, objectifying, coercive, active, driven to orgasm (his), proving his manhood, and with a female. If you look at what these constitute if taken together- legally, emotionally, and psychologically - it's rape. Not every man displays all of these behaviours. Yet this is the dominant mainstream model of male sexuality in which women have been conditioned to act out the matching role. Either you don't have enough of this men's sexual conditioning and you must be a "poof", or you have too much and you're a rapist and a monster. It's little wonder that men are confused about their sexuality. To work against rape is to work primarily against ordinary sexual conditioning , not some kind of unusual aberration. All men have some of the pieces of this sexual conditioning. Rapists are ordinary men with more ordinary men's conditioning than usual. Facing that society is to blame not any man is at the hart of men's work in this area. Responsibility for recovering is the personal responsibility of every man.

Working and Fighting - On leaving school most men go through the hardest and loneliest time of their lives. You have be consumed by work to "be a man". The beat-or-be-beaten culture of boys becomes kill-or-be-killed, dog- eat-dog. After leaving school men just work. Life is about work. All the priorities in a man's life are distorted so that work comes first. "You're a man because of your work." Health, relationships, well-being all come second. The conditioning feels like you have to work like this in order to survive. The way society is organised fits this feeling exactly. It can be very difficult for men to really rest.

Young men are the "group of choice" taken into the military. The male conditioning to "kill or be killed" is completed by the brutality of the basic training of new recruits. It is not surprising that military training recruitment ads have stated such things as "the army will make a man of you".

For at least some of the time most men at this age (18 to 25) would give everything that they had if someone would just pretend to like them which would allow them to "go on" a bit longer. This is the time of the highest death rates from accidents, suicide, drugs, fights, wars etc. Men at this age get the heaviest dose of abuse and isolation. The pressure is immense on them to fit into the oppressive mold, conform and go numb, and work.

At the same time, all men are subject to the threat of being bashed to death for being Gay-like. Two heterosexual men can get killed for holding hands in some streets. Gay bashing happens to any male that does not appear to fit into the stereotype of how men are supposed to be.

Retiring - When the role as "work objects" is over many men are just "disposed of". Many men either seize up or drop dead soon after retiring. The tensions of a life time all catch up. For the survivors, life often has no meaning and little real contact with others. At a time when the richest life experience and wisdom is available to others old men are seen as less than men as they are no longer available to work or fight.

Leaving Isolation
(c) copyright 1991 Sydney Men's Network