Kimmel, M. 2008. Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men.

Kimmel, Michael. 2008. Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men. New York: Harper Collins.

Welcome to Guyland

–          Hints at college age being a critical time that boys/men look forward to/look back on/try to stay involved with despite “aging out” – positing men not in the positions for future leaders of the public sphere (moving towards adulthood in business, politics, civic engagement), but instead in a state of liminality – left somewhere between adolescence and adulthood. Uncertainty is abound, and men are often unclear/unwilling to change this status – resulting in hooking up, serial employment, and maintaining the college lifestyle well into their adult lives – anomie?

–          Guyland as “the world in which young men live. It is both a stage of life, a liminal undefined time span between  adolescence and adulthood that can often stretch for a decade or more, and a place, or rather, a bunch of places where guys gather to be guys with each other, unhassled by the demands of parents, girlfriends, jobs, kids, and the other nuisances of adult life. In this topsy-turvy, Peter-Pan mindset, young men shirk the responsibilities of adulthood and remain fixated on the trappings of boyhood, while the boys they still are struggle heroically to prove that they are real men despite all evidence to the contrary” (4). Between 16-26(+), not an individualized state of arrested development, but instead a widespread, normative stage of life – something that is isolating from other men, despite homosociality – and that they are not appropriately prepared to contend with (adults don’t get it, and you don’t talk about it with your friends, lest you be uncool.) “Bros” (other men) become life-long allegiances, whereas “hos” become threats to these ties, despite the heteronormative demand to seek sexual/marital/occupational partnership with women.

–          Mostly white, middle-class, college-bound/graduated, unmarried men who live either with friends or parents, who are economically insecure or who have low-level jobs that offer ample leisure time — however, it is not just this, but the activities that guide Guyland – drinking, video games, porn, pizza, sex, sports . These practices become entrenched in political, economic, gender, hetero-, and race-privilege; whereas these practices may be openly critiqued in POC or marginalized peoples, it becomes invisible and normalized for young white men.  Brought about by intense cultural homogenization, media depictions of young men, “helicopter parents,” perceived threats of integration, defensiveness about boundaries of masculinity and the things that men must do to articulate that. Parenting (particularly absent/emotionally-detached fathers), churches, schools, families, relationships, media, and commercial centers become a site of critique.

– Cultural tensions are fueled in Guyland, seeking scapegoats in women, POC, and Others. Homophobia, harassment, bullying, racism, sexism creates a system encouraged by other men, to create solidarity. Women, here, become symbols of “responsibility and respectability, the antithesis of Guyland. Girls are fun and sexy, even friends, as long as they respect the centrality of guys’ commitment to the band of brothers. And when girls are allowed in, they have to play by guy rules, or they don’t get to play at all” […] “Girls live in Guyland, but they do not define it. They contend with it and make their peace with it, each in their own way.” (14/15). Even when not “in” Guyland, women are subjected to its outcomes – sexualization, demands to fit within norms of beauty, etc. “Guyland sets the terms under which girls try to claim their own agency, develop their own senses of self” (14). Similarly, “Girls can even be guys – if they know something about sports (but not too much), enjoy casual banter about sex (but not too actively), and dress and act in ways that are pleasantly unthreatening to boys’ fragile sense of masculinity” (14).

–          Though positive aspects can be gleaned: advancing age of marriage, more career opportunities, established identities, some activities as inconsequential; however, “Guyland lies between the dependency and lack of autonomy of boyhood and the sacrifice and responsibility of manhood” (6).

What’s the Rush

In previous generations, traditional markers of adulthood (marriage, military service/college, job, parenthood, homeownership) tended to occur around the same time, or in a neat succession. Now, this becomes fragmented, with a decline of men and women completing these demographic checkpoints by thirty. Media depictions of adulthood (and, yeah, reality) portrays adult men as breadwinning, married with children, responsible – yet henpecked, overwhelmed by debts, undersexed, and unable to relate with their children. Adolescence as a term that is just over a century old; the concept of teenagers established within the last sixty —expanding the three years of prescribed adolescence in the 1900s (ending at 15), to six years (13-19) — as a site of conflicting identities between childhood and adult social and ethical developments. Early puberty onset, sexual revolution and access to birth control, expansions in longevity-inducing healthcare promote early onset of adult behaviors, but restricts demands that are usually incurred with such activities. Jobs and careers are cast in this new generation as outlets to identity, but young folk are often unrealistic with the benefits that this “needs” to provide – salary, flexibility, entry-level work — leading to series of fragmented employments.

Globalization (and automation) changes manufacturing labor outlets for working class young men – where well-paying and benefit-laden jobs are no longer common options – pushing a debt-inducing college agenda? Despite this, young people (along with immigrants, elderly, minorities) make up a large component of the underpaid, part-time, benefit-dry service economy. Psychological profiles render young people the most self-esteemed, but lacking in self-awareness; enthusiastic about social change and meaning-making, but without the tools to do so; contradictorily, they are more removed from traditional social, political, and economic institutions – less trusting of churches, unions, and traditional means of social change/community (demonstrating an isolation?) Young people are more likely to commit suicide (save for men over seventy).

Men and women’s integration into the public sphere (along with infeasibility of crossing traditional thresholds of adulthood) creates needs to alternatively “prove” masculinity. The socialization of masculinity is decreasingly coming from adults, but more so, is coming from peers and media – however, this leaves young men passive, isolated, and insecure – because interrogating the system is somehow “unmasculine.”

“Guyland thus becomes the arena in which young men so relentlessly seem to act out, seem to take the greatest risks, and do some of the stupidest things. Directionless and often clueless, they rely increasingly on their peers to usher them into adulthood and validate their masculinity. And their peers often have some interesting plans for what they will have to endure to prove that they are real men” (43).


Bros Before Hos – The Guy Code

Young women observe and note the fragmentation of what it means to be a woman, feminine; young men, conversely, have (albeit varying) strong notions of what it means to be a man or masculine. Most often, the underlying code of masculinity is a removal or suppression of emotions – portraying that everything is cool, and if not, everything will be just fine, because of his control. The four basic rules of masculinity, according to Brannon  and David (1976):

  • “’No Sissy Stuff!’: Being a man means not being a sissy, not being perceived as weak, effeminate, or gay. Masculinity is the relentless repudiation of the feminine.
  • “’Be a Big Wheel’: This rule refers to the centrality of success and power in the definition of masculinity. Masculinity is measured more by wealth, power, and status than by any particular body part.
  • “’Be a Sturdy Oak’: What makes a man is that he is reliable in a crisis. And what makes him so reliable in a crisis is not that he is able to respond fully and appropriately to the situation at hand, but rather that he resembles an inanimate object. A rock, a pillar, a species of tree.
  • “’Give ‘em Hell’: Exude an aura of daring and aggression. Live life out on the edge. Take risks. Pay no attention to what others think” (45-46).


Masculinity as articulated through homosocial assessment – performed for, and adjudicated by, other men.  Women, thus, become so devalued that they are not contenders for evaluating masculinity, but instead are viewed as currency to be traded as demonstration/in articulation of masculinity. Women, though, play a critical role in policing masculinity through heterosexual  (often perceived as predatory) interactions.

Emotions are suppressed, and often, it seems as if the only acceptable means to express these feelings are through violence – as a way to command respect, preserve honor, and to assess other men’s masculinity. However, when cases of violence (or offshoots, like hazing, etc.) do come to light, society often turns to psychological problematization of the actors, instead of the social forces that permit and promote these behaviors.

“Guyland rests on three distinct cultural dynamics: a culture of entitlement, a culture of silence, and a culture of protection” (59)

  • Culture of Entitlement: sense of male superiority, lack of empathy not present in other generations. Despite a relative lack of power (due to job insecurity, etc.), young men often feel entitled to such power and positions.
  • Culture of Silence: young men don’t speak out against the contradictions and violences of Guyland/the Bro Code because it will incur personal backlash and marginalization. Thus, it “imposes a code of silence on boys, requiring them to suffer without speaking of it and to be silent witnesses to acts of cruelty to others” (Kindlon and Thompson CITE) – perpetrations are not addressed, nor are they reported to authorities that could prohibit said practices. Women and girls become complicit in this silence, lest they become targets of the same (or worse) victimization, violence, or shame.
  • Culture of Protection: “By upholding the culture of silence, guys implicitly support the criminals in their midst who take that silence as tacit approval. And not only does that silence support them, it also protects them. It ensures that there will be no whistleblowers and, as we’ll see, that there will be no witnesses when, and if, the victims themselves come forward. Nobody knows anything, nobody say anything, nobody remembers anything” (63). The boys will be boys mentality encourages other individuals and institutions to frame (often privileged) men and boys’ violences as anomalous, or normative – or, that the parents/coaches/etc. will stand in/up for their boys, investing resources into silencing or “damage-controlling” the impacts of their children. Whistleblowers become the enemy – often the target of defamation lawsuits (and acts of violence against them).

High School

The “boy crisis” of academic underachievement is often misplaced from codes of masculinity and other social contributions to the “damn feminists” and their agenda to put women’s interests ahead of men’s – noting that schools are a feminizing zone – requiring passivity, submission, and obedience, oftentimes to the women who instruct at those levels. However, the many initiatives that have come out of feminist work in education work to restructure and address inequalities with both genders – attending to learning processes, classroom reorganization, and anti-bullying/anti-stereotype campaigns. The gap in college enrollment is not as pronounced in white middle-class students; however, with Latino, Black, and working class students, women are far out-enrolling men. Boys, however, are more likely to present themselves as over-involved in class at inappropriate times, demonstrating bravado – a resistance to authority that concretes masculinity. Differences in majors may root back to Guy Code- liberal arts and humanities as feeling-laden; STEM field are “objective,” breadwinning – and thus, comply with codes of unfeeling, earning masculinities.

Homophobia becomes socialized with the “fag” discourse (however, Kimmel only mentions Pascoe in reference to her research – what’s the deal, MK?) – that being gay is wrong, dumb, or aberrant – more so, that “fag” discourses guide a policing of masculinity.  Bullying is experienced by almost half of high school boys, as committed by other boys; however, girls become complicit in this, as bullying (particularly the bullying of boys) grants esteem with high-status boys. Hazing, unlike bullying, is often viewed as voluntary and consensual – as a rite of passage, though physical/emotional/sexual abuse are often offered as ritualized membership requisites – many of which have gendered implications. (Women’s hazing often is done to appeal to men; men’s hazing is almost never directed to the appeal of women.) In the wave of school-related violence, bullying and revenge is frequently at the center of these attacks.

The Rites of Almost-Men

Similarly, in college, hazing becomes gendered – men for the sake of other men; women, to “prove themselves” to other women, by means of men. Often, adults become knowingly absent – where peers initiate and socialize peers, instead of men initiating boys as in previous generations (pair that with a lack of formal rite of passage to manhood, or traditional venues of articulating community – unions, churches, etc.)

Women’s roles in binge-drinking and collegiate hijinks are a double-edged sword – if they are able to be “near-equals” and keep up with men, they are simultaneously respected, but put under same duress as men (or devalued on accounts of not keeping up femininity); likewise, if not playing into Guyland, they may be praised for their femininity and respectability, but they will lose out on events and invitations to participate.

University towns’ infrastructure meets collegiate demands for drinking – lines of bars down main strips of near-campus roads. This downtown atmosphere encourages drinking irresponsibly in a “safe” fashion – where you probably won’t get mugged, left out on the side of the road — it is supervised, and condoned. “In other words, drinking ‘dangerously’ requires a significant amount of safety. You may not know everyone you’re partying with, but you know that the people you are with are very likely to know the people you know. You don’t ‘lose control’ without having a large set of ‘controls’ already built into the system” (104).

Sports Crazy

Sports, instead of arts or other talents, are celebrated as pinnacles of masculinity, and form a barrier against bullying – but at the same time, sports teams are often sites of bullying – from peers and coaches.  The socialization of young men to like sports often comes from older men (sometimes, with bullying coming from parents – particularly fathers), and acts as a social currency of masculinity – an instant unifier. Sports become a way to bond fathers with sons (and daughters, but less predominantly) – as something that fathers can take interest in their children with, but not be scolded by societal demands that leave childrearing to the mother. Sports act as an “acceptable” outlet for emotions – to cry, be angry, be overjoyed, nostalgic, etc. Immaturity, braggadocio, and “boyish” competition are lauded in this usually all-male space of sports viewership. Sports, unlike other domains, has remained explicitly sex segregated, and sports talk and media is predominantly guided by men, covering other men’s sports achievements – preserving homophobia and anti-femininity, but also overshadowing racial tensions and inequalities, in the light of racial integration of teams.

Boys and Their Toys

Technology and entertainment are large industry sectors that support and are supported by Guyland – in ways, this can be a bonding experience, but may also be isolating. Video games as escapist – delaying or avoiding altogether the responsibilities of adulthood – breadwinning, caretaking, obligations. Racist, sexist, violent discourses come through, but are justified as “just entertainment,” avoiding “PC” culture, rebellion, and free-thinking. Entertainment and video games, like sports, is an approved site of competition and expressing feelings – as a perceived site of authenticity – being more “real” in an unreal space than in reality? More so, acting out fantasies of sex, aggression, and violence in a way that has no real world consequences of doing so in real life.

Radio shows that promote a Guyland discourse are unapologetically politically incorrect – giving accessible discourses to aggrieved (and entitled) young men – granting their permission to be angry, and of course, more so entitled (as it has been reinforced). More and more adult viewers are watching children’s cartoons (what about the upswing in animated series that are made with increasingly adult content – Family Guy, BoJack, Archer?)

Music in Guyland is appropriated from the hyper-tough, rebellious metal, punk, and rap genres – which not only postures particular modes of masculinity, but appropriates/consumes these masculinities without consequence, in search of authenticity. Perceived expectations of polite White middle-class membership is considered emasculating, instead the “coolness” of racial Others becomes a way to establish defiance. Kevin Powell: whites enamor with hip-hop is “just a cultural safari for white people” (here 164 CITE) – “It’s safe because you ‘can take it off. White hip-hop kids can turn their caps around, put a belt in their pants and go to the mall without being followed’” ( in Kitwana 2005: 41).

For CA paper: “They [middle class white men] embrace badness, but avoid engaging with its historical origins. Repackaged as music, black anger is sanitized for white consumption” (164).

For CA paper: Appropriation “allows Whites to contain their fears and animosities towards Blacks through rituals not of ridicule, as in previous eras, but of adoration” (Yousman 2003).

Babes in Boyland

Being girl crazy is a way to establish heterosexuality, despite having to answer to homosocial demands.  However, men can’t be too girl crazy, lest he be considered desperate and a loser. Sex with women becomes a way to indicate masculinity through virility and desirability – but this is matched with women’s blockade of sexuality.  “By declining guys’ sexual advances and not allowing guys to use them as currency, they [women] are often as much of a threat to masculinity as they are a booster” (170). (Heterosexual) pornography consumption becomes a way to articulate sexuality that guarantees women’s compliance.  However, men’s magazines  (and porn) may work against men’s interests, as they are consistently playing to the physical and sexual insecurities of men – how to be bigger, more sexually potent, etc.

“Those softest of soft-core guy magazines serve to reassure young men that their desire to look at girls is not only their birthright as guys but a biological imperative. Guys seem to need that reassurance in part because they feel so besieged by gender equality, so trampled by the forces of political correctness, that they can’t even ogle a woman on the street anymore without fearing that the police will arrest them for harassment” (172) — pornography thus service to reinforce a culture of masculine voyeurism, where some young men report frustration and upset at not being able to have sex without gaining consent.  Pornography, even though legally labeled as featuring models, seems to boggle young men into thinking that these videos are somehow reminiscent of reality – where they can even the ante against the “stuck up” women who they feel entitled to sex with, and never have to face rejection (and thus emasculation).

Watching violent pornography produced attitude and behavior changes in young men – making them more likely to support rape myths and more likely to acquit rapists in mock trials (Malamuth and Donnerstein 1984; Zillman CITE; Donnerstein and Linz 1990) – however, these were short-term – most of the follow-up testing demonstrated very little presence of these problematic attitudes. Additionally, viewing consensual sex scenes did not seem to elicit the same attitudes/behaviors. Porn-watching becomes a homosocial affair; however, violence in porn is more likely to be viewed and supported by younger men. Consumption of porn becomes raced, with young white men leading the parade – meanwhile, tropes of race consolidate stereotypes.

Young men were more likely to use demeaning terms for women, particularly in pornographies – hos, sluts, bitches, etc.  “In Guyland, young men see a relentless war between the sexes, and, as far as they can tell, the only way to keep from losing is to fool the women: to treat them as if you believe they are goddesses, while secretly demeaning them to your friends. You don’t have sex with women because you desire them; sex is the weapon by which you get even with them, or, even, humiliate them” (182).

Hooking Up

Sexual promiscuity and hooking up has become a stand-in for traditional dating, courtship, and relationship-building, leaving young men and women ill-prepared for the next step of stable adulthood and partnerships. College is a site where students will never meet more unmarried, sexually active potential partners – and campus life (organizations, dormitories, etc.) facilitate  sexual meetups through infrastructure or through social policies.  A dubious definition of hooking up leaves us somewhere between kissing and intercourse with someone you are not in a relationship with, but can range in frequency (one-night stands vs. longterms) and in intimacy offered (FWBs). This vagueness may be purposeful and gendered – whereas hooking up for guys often infers intercourse, whereas hooking up for girls seems to be a little “less than.” Old patterns of dating guide hook-up culture – male domination, female subservience and compliance, and sexual double standards to plague them – giving men advantage for hooking up, and women a detriment. Men’s hookup culture stems from avoiding relationships, and not having to be accountable to others – in terms of sexuality, in terms of emotional support. However, hookups become a critical currency of conversation in establishing masculine sexual prowess – most frequently revealed to other men. “Scoring” then, is not about having sex, but a competition to out-sex other men – beating their “scores” – hindering sexual/psychosocial/physical (skills-based) growth as it pertains to the considerations of sexual partners.  Mostly, because many college men have no real idea as how to pleasure their female partners – with only a selection of college women reporting orgasm from sexual relations with their male peers.  “Hooking up seems disadvantageous to women in so many ways, and not only because the sex isn’t so great. In fact the disincentives appear so numerous that one eventually might wonder why women bother. The hookup culture appears to present a kind of lose-lose situation. If they don’t participate, they risk social isolation – not to mention that they also forgo sex itself, as well as any emotional connection they may be able to squeeze out of the occasion. If they do participate, they face the potentially greater risk of ‘loss of value,’ and there’s a good chance that they won’t even have any fun” (210-211). Unfortunately, this resounds of anti-feminist and neo-conservative respectability claims – to hamper women’s sexuality and relegate it to the confines of marriage, encouraging women (not necessarily men) to be choosier about their sexual partnerships. Kimmel comments, “Focusing all one’s moralizing attention on young women only perpetuates that inequality, rather than challenges it” (213).  Abstinence pledges seem to prolong virginity, but do not tend to be successful – particularly in the application of sexual activities with “good/bad girls” – having sex with a “ho” doesn’t revoke abstinence, as one interviewed student noted – it was only sex with “good girls” that revoked abstinences – casting women in dichotomized, value-based roles (kx^ often laden with overtones of endogamy).

College students of all genders seem to over-estimate the presence and frequency of hook-ups, with only about 4-5% of college men having sex the previous weekend, despite common estimates of about 80%. Thus, the peer-driven anxiety that one is missing out, or that they should be doing “better” promotes hookup-based sexual activity.

“With all this hooking up, friends with benefits, and booty calls, guys should feel they have it made. But there is a creeping anxiety that continually haunts guys’ sexual activities, particularly these almost-men. They worry that perhaps they’re not doing it enough, or well enough, or they’re not big enough, or hard enough. Though the evidence suggests that men are in the driver’s seat when it comes to sex, they feel that women have all the power, especially the power to say no” (208).

For men and women the hook-up culture seems to take different forms – men view hooking up as spontaneous (though carefully preluded by rituals that ensure intoxication, conviviality, and other homosocial interactions).  Women, on the other hand, are seldom spontaneous about it – planning for changes of clothes, birth control, etc. “They [women] have to decide how much they can drink, how much they can flirt, and how to avoid any potentially embarrassing or even threatening situations. The guys lounge in their comfort of the illusion of alcohol-induced spontaneity; the women are several steps ahead of them” (199). The illusion of spontaneity is a way of distancing self from sexual agency – that it is just something that happens, and aids to avert vulnerabilities (and feelings of romantic interest) that source from this practice.

Additionally, the use of alcohol can be considered a purposeful clouding of judgment – of the attractiveness of the partner, of the propriety of the act, etc. However, alcohol can be used to cloud other people’s judgment  – which, if men are rejected, can be used as an excuse for defamation or ignoring the averted come-on.  Alcohol, for girls, becomes a way to excuse unsavory behavior – that what one does sexually while drunk “doesn’t count” or that you weren’t complicit in it — (kx^ in ways, reinforcing poor consent practices, in the fear of being labeled a ‘slut’ rather than a drunk).

Hooking up becomes a stand-in for relationships, which tax college students’ time, finances, and attention; however, this seemingly ends post-college, with young men and women exchanging communications and participating in conventional dating activities. Though attributed to young men’s insecurity, young women identify with the benefits of hookup culture. “Young women today are more comfortable with their sexuality than any generation in history. There are certainly women who prefer hooking up to relationship. Women also hook up to avoid emotional entanglements that would distract them from their studies, professional ambitions, friendship networks, and other commitments. Or they hook up because they don’t think they’re ready for a commitment and they just want to hang out and have fun. If they want to have sexual relationships with men – and by all appearances they certainly do – then this is the field on which they must play. Some women may want more, some may not, but since more is not available either way, they take what they can get” (202-203).  Thus, some young women hook up as a point of entry into longer, more stable relationships – fearing to be the one to instigate a “define the relationship” conversation, and thus risking the tentative “relationship” built . This practice becomes raced, as POC tend to stick to conventional dating scripts, practicing particularism in their endogamy – for fear of stereotype (kx^ respectability) , racial/community alienation, or reprimand from their families.

“Despite enormous changes in the sexual attitudes of young people, the gender politics of campus sex don’t seem to have changed very much at all. Sex in Guyland is just that – guy’s sex. Women are welcome to act upon their sexual desires, but guys run the scene. Women who decide not to join the party can look forward to going to sleep early and alone tonight – and every night. And women who do join the party run the risk of encountering the same old double standard that no amount of feminist progress sees to eradicate fully. Though women may accommodate themselves to men’s desires – indeed, some feel they have to accommodate themselves to the – the men’s rules rule. What this means is that many young women are biding their time, waiting for the guys to grow up and start acting like men” (191-192).

Predatory Sex and Party Rape

In previous generations, sexual activity was guided by young men’s will, more or less, not stopping until their female partners hit them despite repeated complaints and refusals; this once normative practice, fortunately, has now been legally labeled for what it is – sexual assault. However, young men and boys are still actively participating in sexual activities based upon these presumptions – perceiving that women’s refusals of sexual activity are a way to defend propriety, to coyly be coaxed, that lying or promising false affections are an “in” for sexual activities, or that women’s inebriation or unconsciousness is a way around obtaining consent. When alcohol or other substances are involved, there may be a purposeful grey area constructed, offering “a realm of plausible deniability where no one supposedly has to take responsibility for what he (or she) wanted to do” (220).  However, young women are increasingly learning how to identify instances of sexual assault. Additionally, more and more sexual assault education  and prevention programs for athletes, fraternities and sororities, and even everyday students are being imposed – however, there is no certainty that completion of said program marks competence, application, or salience with its trainees.

Malamuth  and Dean (1991) noted that between 16-20% of male respondents would commit rape if they could be certain that they would get away with it; when language changed rape to ‘force a woman to have sex,’ this number grew to between 36-44%.  Other studies noted that about 15% of college men admitted to using force to obtain intercourse (Pollitt 1994). Nine out of ten completed/attempted assaults are committed by those who the victim knows – classmates, friends, acquaintances, etc. (missing CITE).  Alcohol is often prevalent in many campus cases, which seems to detract from police action or reporting. Crosset (1999) notes “[d]rinking may be part of some men’s premeditated strategy to coerce women into unwanted sex or to be violent; it many also be a convenient and socially accepted means by which men can distance themselves from their violence” (250). Higher prestige groups (such as football teams or top-tier fraternities) are more likely to feel entitled to sexual access – and campus administrators pander to this, fearing the loss of a competitive edge – aiding in a culture of silence/protection.  Very few completed/attempted rapes are reported  to law enforcement (local/campus police) or campus hotlines; however, most instances are overwhelmingly reported to friends or kept to themselves, for fear of shame, backlash, ostracism, or due to feelings of self-blame. Women are more frightened at the prospect of stranger rape, however, in terms of acquaintance rape (on a date, by a former/current intimate partner, non-date activities), party rape is by far the most common. The Justice Department defines party rape as a rape that “occurs at an off-campus house or on-or off-campus fraternity and involves […] plying a woman with alcohol or targeting an intoxicated woman (Sampson 2002: 6) — (kx^ but what about other substances? What about the rape of young men?  What about rapes that happen not in fraternity houses?) In ways, the prevalence of these statistics and the narrow definitions of rape demonstrate a series of rape myths – which, if unchallenged, may falsely elude men into believing that their beliefs are shared by other men (Eyssel, Bohner, and Siebler 2006). This continues to harm men, as Meuhlenhard (1988) found that more men than women (57.4% vs. 38.7% respectively) admitted to having unwanted heterosexual intercourse due to enticement/coercion –  something that they had difficulty in refusing – often due to wanting to get sexual experience (33.5% of men, vs. 11.9% women), or to not appear shy, unconfident, or emasculated.  Peer pressure was a factor for engaging in unwanted heterosexual intercourse for 10.9% of men, but only 0.6% of women.

“It’s not that current rates have soared especially high. It’s that those rates in the past were so artificially low – based on women either not recognizing the assault as being out of bounds, or feeling afraid to make a public issue of it by going to the police. Especially if she was likely to be blamed all over again for being in the wrong place, wearing the wrong clothes, or drinking the wrong drinks” (224).

The ambiguity of sexual assault creates a tenuous line for young folk – “To many guys this ambiguity seems like a gray area, a zone where it is not absolutely clear where consent ends and assault begins. Often women agree that the lines get fuzzy and boundaries blur” (219). However, it is not evolutionary or biological imperative that men assault; most men opt NOT to sexually assault. “Rape is a choice, not a biological program” (226).

  • Thus, “Men choose to act this way. And they choose to act this way because they believe it to be justified and they believe that other guys, whose approval is the whole point of this exercise, will reward them for it. They choose to act because of ideology – the beliefs they have about what they should or shouldn’t do, what they can or can’t do, and why. In other words, what enables men to choose to commit rape and call it something else are some of the core elements of Guyland – the cultures of entitlement, silence, and protection” (226-227).
  • Women are often times viewed by men as gatekeepers of their sexuality, where refusal comes as a blow to power and ego, and is perceived as explicit and intentional manipulation. Women exact power over men through their physical attractiveness, “holding” men’s sexual power through the demand of consent, inciting the perception of justified rage, violence and revenge.
  • Bystanders are often complicit in sexual assaults – by being physically present and not intervening, or through spreading rumors instead of reporting it to the authorities. “The culture of silence both enables the worst of the guys in their predatory behaviors and at the same time prevents the best of the guys from speaking up about what they really think about all this sexual predation. Challenging your roommates, stepping in to stop sex from happening when a woman is clearly too drunk either to consent or to refuse sex, is a betrayal of brotherhood. In a sexual culture where men and women are seen as being on opposite teams, where men are mandated to ‘get over’ on women and women are mandated to ‘protect themselves’ from sexual assault, scoring one for the team is crucial. If you refuse to ‘score’ yourself, you are at least expected not to block the shot for your buddies. In this setup, defending or protecting a woman is worse than switching teams, it’s an act of treason” (230). Thus, administrators, coaches, advisors, etc. play into the culture of protection to cover their young charges, and to cover their own asses as well.
    • Additionally, rape (particularly gang rape) becomes a means of initiation, bonding – through creating a brotherhood of silence and protection despite committing a deviant act. Reeves Sanday (1990) notes that “Whenever men build and give allegiance to a mystical, enduring, all-male social group, the disparagement of women is, invariably, an important ingredient of the mystical bond, and sexual aggression the means by which the bond is renewed” (19-20).

“In today’s hookup culture, where sex is a casual affair that needn’t be preceded by any kind of relationship whatsoever, where sexual encounters often occur after huge amounts of alcohol have been consumed by both parties, and where even consensual sex is marked by vagueness, lack of judgment, and misunderstanding,” it is not a surprise that instances of sexual assault (un/intentional, identified as such/otherwise) happen so frequently (220).

Feminist review of unwanted, forced, or coerced sex in the early 1990s noted that at least one in four college-aged women have had experiences that met the legal definition of rape, even if they did not use rape as a term to describe such an incident (Fischer, Cullen, and Turner 2000). “Most women saw what had happened as a mistake, a date gone bad, a guy who got carried away. They blamed themselves for leading him on, for giving mixed signals, for not really knowing what they wanted, for being too drunk to say no clearly” (221). Anti-feminists doubted these numbers, noting that high rape statistics were sourced from misandristic intentions and policies, a sex-negative feminist constituency (see also Young 1999 and Paglia 1991/1992 for more anti-feminist rape adjudication). Katie Roiphe (1993) – argued that young women must take responsibility for their sexuality (including assaults), for better or worse, regardless of condition, supporting a cultural context that blames women for constraining the will of young men. Paglia (1991/1992), notes that today’s college women often believe that “they can do anything, go anywhere, say anything, wear anything. […] No, they can’t. […] A woman going to a fraternity party is walking into Testosterone Flats, full of prickly cacti and blazing guns. […] A girl who lets herself get dead drunk at a fraternity party is a fool. A girl who goes upstairs alon with a brother at a fraternity party is an idiot. Feminists call this ‘blaming the victim.’ I call this common sense. […] Every woman must take personal responsibility for her sexuality. […] She must be prudent and cautious about where she goes and with whom. When she makes a mistake, she must accept the consequences and, through self-criticism, resolve never to make that mistake again” (51).

Explicit consent practices have been increasingly incorporated into campus codes of conduct; similarly, Canada has established enthusiastic consent (silence doesn’t mean yes) into its national policy on sexual assault.  “Most of the time, on campus today, the programs on  “Rape Awareness” focus on women – helping them to reduce their risk of sexual abuse. Women learn that they have to pay attention to their surroundings, monitor their drinking, and make sure that they are safe. Such an emphasis is, of course, necessary and important. But also incomplete. What do such programs assume about men? They assume that unless women take these preventative steps to self-police, guys, those basically out of control predatory sexual animals, will prevail. Or, maybe a little better, that while most guys wouldn’t even fantasize about sexual assault, let alone do it, neither will they lift a finger to interrupt it, challenge other guys, or in any way disturb that enabling code of silence that protects the bros, no matter what they may do to the hos” (241).

Girls in Guyland

Young women often speak of their privileges and freedoms as givens – reproductive, occupational, familial, and sexual choice act as givens, hard-won victories of a successful, yet now defunct and decaying feminist movement. This is reflected in media depictions of ambitious and witty young women, who are often paired incompetent or awkward young male counterparts. “Girls today are unlike any generation in our nation’s history. Decades of change in the options for women have had their effect. They seem more entitled, empowered, and emboldened than any generation in our history. And also somewhat myopic” (243). Girls are faced with the “Girl Code” – a dilemma situated between “entitlement and inequality: They believe that they can do anything they want, be anything they want to be, and yet when they go for it, they’re judged by standards not of their own making. Young women face what we might call the Goldilocks dilemma – whatever they do, it’s either too hot or too cold, too big or too small. And it has to be ‘just right’ – although no one has told them what ‘just right’ actually is. And they have to achieve it with no visible effort expended” (254) – in ways, this reinstitutionalizes a lack of agency, a passive receipt of naturalized success, and a rejection of overt competition.

Though guys may have to contend with Guyland more intensively, they must also contend with it – as a way to transition to womanhood, gain status, and to frame self-image/esteem through the validation that participation in Guyland activities provides – despite their second-class status in this “foreign land.” By contending with Guyland and its residents, young women learn about sexuality, relationships, social decorum, etc. Women’s friendships with other women are often framed as concurrent dichotomies: critical, life-long bonds that may simultaneously sell you out in the name of competition – effectively isolating women through intra-gender policing, the creation and sustenance of hierarchies, and being dependent upon men’s approval for their suitability. Sisterhood becomes a place to build trust, but also to suppress women’s interests (particularly involving sexual assault) for fear of repercussions from (organizations of) men. Sisterhood can offer women social esteem, acceptance, invitations to the “right” social events to meet the “right” people – as well as at type of protection from sexual predation. Defectors are cast as uptight, bitchy, lesbians, or a miscellany of titles considered unsuitable for sisterhood groups.

Casting those who defect from Guyland expectations of femininity as bitches, men can pre-emptively negate their rejection (often through gendered or sexualized taunts or other forms of exclusion/ridicule). Conversely, the “babe” in Guyland garners a type of feminized power from Guyland’s endorsement: “She should be physically fit but not muscular, sexy but not slutty, pretty but naturally, not dumb but not too smart, a drinker and a party girl but not a drunk (and definitely not sloppy), adoring but not needy. An unachievable fantasy” (249) — (kx^ the phallic girl of McRobbie?)   

Avoiding the bitch/babe dichotomy of Guyland can be done through cultivating cross-sex friendships, which are often centered around masculine activities – “She needn’t mimic his behavior – she doesn’t have to get blind drunk, hook up randomly, or watch WWE – but she needs to be comfortable with it. In a sense, she is ‘guyified.’ Around her, guys can relax. She is safe and somewhat sanitized – and that insures her safety as well” (250). These friendships can be an emotional repository for men – a place where they can open up about their feelings without peer emasculation.

Additionally, avoiding the bitch/babe dichotomy can entail girls becoming “bros” themselves – “These girls prove their mettle in Guyland through shirking such ‘feminine’ traits as intimacy, loyalty, and openness, and appropriating guys’ behavior: sports, drinking, and sexual promiscuity” (250)  — (kx^ definitely, the phallic girl of McRobbie) – however, this can backfire upon women, with men viewing the de-feminization of women as repulsive or worthy of scorn. Thus, “female empowerment is really not about drinking a guy under the table, cussing like a sailor, or being a sexual predator. Certainly the goals of the feminist movement were not to enable women to be the best ‘bros’ in town” (251). Success is often considered to be central to establishing masculinity; conversely, success is considered to be de-feminizing.

In ways, the demand to be sexy, ambitious, intelligent, modest, successful, and unrelentingly feminine becomes a paradox – one to be contended with through “effortless perfection” () – “You can do it all, but you mustn’t try too hard. In fact, you can’t appear to be making any effort at all […] Effortless perfection is an oxymoron. Impossible to achieve, it’s a standard that demands that women work constantly, monitor their behavior at all times, and remain vigilant about either appearing lazy, stupid, or ugly – or even appearing that they spend any time at all working on it” (253-254).

“Girls are necessary to Guyland. They enable guys, legitimate guys’ behavior, normalize it, and make it seem natural and inevitable” (245). Complicity with Guyland antics may serve as a resource pool for women to gain relationships – through a perception of delayed gratification (that may well never come) – through participation or an adaptation/accommodation.  Access and securing of high-status guys construct high status for girls.

Many popular current self-help books for women’s issues in dealing with this chaotic masculinity promote the use of conventional femininity – through sexual modesty, through repression of wit, competence, or ambition – as a way to attract men. These texts infer that feminism offered women opportunities, but also complicated gender relations, now that women are sexual and economic equals  – thus, women must willfully give in to the boy’s-will-be-boys rhetoric, and sacrifice personal gains for the esteem of men (and men’s self-esteem) —A very problematic stance. “Women have a choice: either embrace guys’ styles as their own (in which they are either parodic or lonely), or accommodate themselves to them (in which case their unhappiness is all their fault)” (263). Women often fear stigmatized identification with feminism – “That is, they want all the rights, but resist the collective action that is required to achieve them” (264).

“Feminism dares to posit that the choice between bitches and babes is a false choice, and dares to imagine that women can be whole people, embracing and expressing ambition and kindness, competence, and compassion. And feminism dares to expect more from men. 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. Feminism is a vision that expects men to go from being ‘just guys,’ accepting whatever they might happen to do, to being just guys – capable of autonomy and authenticity, inspired by justice. That is, feminism believes that guys can become men” (264).

Just Guys (Conclusion)

“Most guys don’t participate in these activities [binge-drinking, hazing, sexual violence] most of the time. But virtually all of them know guys who have. And most guys don’t do anything about it. They are bystanders, and bystanders are complicit. Their silence implies support, or it ’s taken as support or acquiescence. Doing nothing allows something to happen” (267).  ß THIS for conclusion/solutions chapter

Though delayed adulthood and participation in Guyland activities can provide means to identity actualization, exploration, and the freedom from responsibilities (of other people, particularly children) – this freedom may not be so wholesome, acting as a source of isolation or continued risk. “What’s more, freedom without context leaves you isolated from any sense of community and even more susceptible to peer pressure. Much of Guyland’s excesses come not from the desire to stand out, but the obsession to fit in, to belong somewhere” (270).

Solutions – look at the social factors (media, parents, educational institutions, fraternities, churches, etc.) that promote lad culture (macro/structural); create strategies that help young men opt out of “bro codes” – being able to simultaneously be masculine and humane (to women, to other men) – (micro/interactional). Lead by example, and offer (charismatic) adult guidance and support to young men who may be battling out the navigation of contemporary masculinity. Smooth over the transition from “helicopter parenting” to the university-aged “nest dump” with continued (albeit removed) support. Create and facilitate opportunities for boys and young men to get involved in activities that are sex-integrated, involve people not from his high school/college. Break the code of silence and protection regarding Guyland’s hazards – be an active bystander, or at least tell someone who can be. Institutions of higher education (and fraternities) can step up in breaking down hazing and alcohol-based debauchery through formal prohibitions, and no longer offering a culture of protection despite young men’s offenses. An active involvement of schools and administrators to help govern off-campus activity – despite what moral/legal implications should arise. Presume manhood and masculinity – don’t make boys/young men “prove” it.

“Breaking down one’s own silence empowers others to break theirs, and the edifice often comes tumbling down. Only when guys can confront each other, and support each other in standing up for what is right, will the culture of entitlement begin to dissolve. Entitlement will end only when schools and families resume their role as moral arbiters, making it clear that they are watching, and that such behavior will not be tolerated” (282).


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