In response to the data about men committing violent acts – including domestic abuse and sexual abuse – far more than women one interesting thought is that it’s almost certainly rooted in childhood. Boys are more likely to be beaten at school than girls, and parents are far more likely to encourage fights between boys. Think about it: if one of your earliest experiences is being told to punch that kid who insulted you, it’s no great leap to imagine you’d reach adulthood thinking violence was the right response to, well, everything. And since our culture loves to reward aggression—in the boardroom, on the sports field, in the military—it’s easy to see why unlearning that lesson might be next to impossible.
Although these environmental factors probably play a role in male violence it is not the whole story. The reality is that males are born with higher levels of testosterone than females. This hormone defines one of the biological distinction of maleness and is responsible for aggression and risk taking. From an evolutionary standpoint, male aggression has produced successful hunters and protectors of the community and has been genetically passed on through natural selection. Even though hunting and protecting with violence are not nearly as important in our modern world does not mean that the testosterone has disappeared. The issue for men is to figure out how to channel their natural aggression in ways that are socially and morally acceptable by today’s standards. Using the paradigm of the archetypes of masculinity we can gain insights about understanding aggression. The warrior archetype is a man’s aggressive nature. The warrior can operate either in the shadow or the light. The shadow is being violent, except if it is in pure self defense. The warrior in the light is assertive. Being assertive is the non-violent method to seek control of a situation and to protect what is important for the well being of our partners and families. It is imperative that we teach our young men -especially those in early adolescence when the testosterone starts flowing – how to manage their aggressive impulses through assertive non-violent means.
There was a small really disturbing article in the New York Times, Sunday magazine section entitled “Computer Love” by Hope Reeves.. She described a new app called BroApp which allows guys to outsource their digital affections by sending automated texts to needy girlfriends. Guys pick the messages, days and times, and the app does the rest. She goes on to indicate that the app even has a “girlfriend safety lockdown,” which sends prying eyes to a list of gifts you were allegedly planning to buy her. This is intended to mitigate any resentment of BroApp usage and she will think that the user is the best boyfriend. Not sure if this story was tongue in cheek I googled BRoApp and found that it really exists. Their website tag line is, “message your girlfriend sweet things so that you can spend more time with the Bros”.
Let me explain why I was upset. For the record I have no qualms with an appeal to the lover archetype of masculinity. As men, our lover reflects a man’s ability to be compassionate, sexual and to connect with others – men and women – in relationship. The reality is that we can have our lover operate in the light of in the shadow. Using artificial means like BroApp is a manipulative and insincere approach to growing a relationship with a woman and is certainly our lover acting in the shadow. The other aspect that bothered me was the reinforcement of the stereotype that real men do not want to spend the time on communicating affection but would prefer to use that time hanging with the Bros. This message only serves to diminish the importance of the lover in our lives and limits our ability to be fully connected with friends, family and lovers. The best of masculinity is to embrace our lover in the light and learn to communicate in relationship with honesty and compassion.
A number of years ago there was a problem with the elephant herds on a game preserve in Africa. Because they were protected, the herds were growing to such a size that they were destroying the countryside and even farm crops in a search for food. The local experts decided that the way to control the size of the herds was to “cull” them; to kill the adult bull elephants so that they could not breed.
Elephant herds are matriarchal in nature, in other words the female and young elephants live in a herd under the leadership of the dominant female. Older males live by themselves until it is time to breed. When male elephants are born they live with the herd for protection until they are teenagers, at which time the dominant female kicks them out of the herd so they are not “bothering” the females. Typically, these young males then find an adult bull elephant to live with and learn how a male elephant lives life. Unfortunately, they had killed off all the adult bull elephants. So, much like young males in our culture, with no male role models to teach them, these young pachyderms starting hanging around with each other and eventually formed a “gang” of teenage bull elephants. The results were similar to untrained and unrestrained young males in our culture in that the gang of teenage bull elephants started destroying crops, villages, even killing people.
A group of experts were called in and tried a variety of solutions with no success. Eventually someone suggested asking an old African chief what to do. He said, “Find an old bull elephant.” And so they found an old, old bull elephant and air lifted him by helicopter into the bush where they had last seen the gang of teenagers. He walked off and they did not see him for several weeks. One day, he came slowly walking out of the bush, and right behind him in single file were all the teenage bull elephants. They never had a problem with this herd again. Not because the old male was tough enough to fight the young males, but merely his presence as an older male taught them how a male lives life.
In light of the recent senseless shootings in our country, I couldn’t help but notice that so far there has not been any mention of a father for the Oregon or Connecticut shooters. In the vast majority of these tragedies the young man’s relationship with his father was non-existent or strained at best. It was seldom one of a guiding, loving, protective nature.
As my wise young friend Justin Farrell remarked, “Perhaps we don’t need more gun laws. Perhaps we need more elephants.”
(Rick Johnson – Patheos.com)