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young men, teenage boys, and those who interact with them on a daily basis. He offers a look into Guyland- the time when boys transition into men. His depiction is candid, detailed, and informative. Although it sometimes excludes Guyland’s minorities, its dynamics will appear to be universal to many. Michael Kimmel immediately comes to guys’ rescue by beginning his book in their defense. He makes perfectly clear that Guyland is not a terrible place or a place to be ashamed of. It is not elusive or secret. It simply is “the world of everyday ‘guys’.”1 He explains how these young men are part of a homosocial network of guys that are all together, that are all having similar experiences, but whom all feel equally alone.2 Although Kimmel understands why Guyland is what it is and is sympathetic and unapologetic for it, he also unearths its dark side. It is clear, through young men’s fear of life “ending” as adulthood starts that they would cling violently to the things that make youth “fun.” Hazing into fraternity life, drinking until you black out, and scoring random chicks at college parties are the things that men in Guyland use to tether themselves to boyhood in an adult environment. This transitional period, “beginning at puberty and ending around one’s 30th birthday,”3 has, according to Kimmel, become a new life stage. He argues that thing aren’t the way they were for his parent’s generation that got married quickly, moved to the suburbs, and began a family. These major life markers are being pushed further and further away with new generations. Guyland is not about planning for the future. It is about being guys with other guys in the here and now.
Michael S. Kimmel. Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men. New York: Harper, 2008: 6 Kimmel 7 3 Kimmel 25
Hernandez 2 A new stage of life comes with new rules and Guyland’s reigning doctrine is what Kimmel calls The Guy Code. The rules of The Guy Code, such as “boys don’t cry,” “don’t get mad- get even,” and “nice guys finish last,” make up the framework of Guyland- the culture of entitlement, the culture of silence, and the culture of protections. Guys feel entitled to women, to careers, to sex, and to the masculine world of sports and talk radio. When women or minorities break their little bubbles by getting “their” promotion, rejecting sexual advances, or bothering them while they play video games, their entitlement is challenged and they may lash out. Guys buy into a culture of silence when they become bystanders watching guys taking advantage of women, of minorities, and of weaker guys. They become as problematic as the instigators by not taking an active stance in stopping the behaviors. It is because of silence that gang rapes occur or bullying gets to the point of school shootings. The culture of protection tells guys that they need to “take it like a man,” that safety is emasculating, and yet that guys must always have the backs of the other guys. The Guy Code extends to women, as well, who as second-class citizens in a world of men, must play by their rules in order to be accepted. And by buying into Guy Code, women, in part, help influence its creation and Guyland’s dynamics.4 I believe that Kimmel could have made many more parallels between women and men in Guyland- especially when it comes to sex. Guyland is plagued with inaccurate knowledge about sex due to heavy dependence on porn as an educational tool. There are abounding misconceptions about who is having sex and how often due to the elusive concept of hook-ups.5 Men are told that “size matters” and they are afraid that they won’t “measure up.” The average male college student believes that 80% of men had sex the previous weekend while the actual percentage is around 510%. 80% is the number of college males who had ever had sex.6 Women are just as
Kimmel 245 Kimmel 169-216 6 Kimmel 209-210
Hernandez 3 unknowledgeable when it comes to sex. In Australia, laws regarding what constitutes legal soft porn in the magazine industry, have led to photoshopping female genitalia as much as the rest of their bodies are photoshopped in ads like those seen on Killing Us Softly. The Australia Broadcasting Corporation’s Hungry Beast series aired an episode about how more and more women of today’s generation are beginning to believe that this photoshopped image is reality. Like guys in Guyland, they don’t have others to compare themselves to. As a result, these women have bought into the growing industry within plastic surgery of labiaplasty.7 Rape brings other parallels between men and women in these years of their lives. Regardless of what sex or gender you are, rape often elicits the same sort of reactions. Fred Pelka recalls, in accordance with the culture of protection, that he’d “been socialized never to admit to being vulnerable.” He found connections between how he was treated condescendingly after reporting rape with how women are often punished for being the victim.8 Kimmel seems to largely leave out male rape. Instead, he focuses his attention on how rape is another form of men’s sense of entitlement (with pornography enforcing it). It also seems that Guyland consists of a number of double standards that are all too familiar to women. Marilyn Frye discusses that women are between a rock in a hard place- either being a slut or a lesbian, being too uptight or being too loose.9 The guys that Kimmel talks about also experience this. They have to constantly be involved in heterosexual activities (or saying that they are) lest they have their masculinity and heterosexuality questioned. The best way to stay away from “gay,” is women- and lots of them. Perhaps, then, this is not particular to Guyland but to this age group in general, regardless of gender.
Kirsten Drysdale. "Labiaplasty." Hungry Beast. Posted March 10, 2010. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Web, http://hungrybeast.abc.net.au/tags/labiaplasty. 8 Fred Pelka. A Male Survivor Breaks His Silence. On The Issues Quarterly, 22 (Spring 1992): 8-11, 40. 9 Marilyn Frye. The politics of Reality. Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press, 1983.: 1-16.
Hernandez 4 In relation to another minority group, I feel like Kimmel largely excluded gays from most of his book with the idea that they would differ too greatly from Guyland’s code of conduct. However, it seems that gay men are as critical of each other as straight men are. Voon Chin Phua shows that gay Asian men are scrutinized for not being masculine enough. Just like in Guyland, gay men are also challenged to be very masculine. If you happen to be more feminine, you are less likely to be considered attractive by a gay community that largely favors this masculine ideal. In many ways this is precisely the same kind of behavior that occurs within the homosocial Guyland that Kimmel describes. I think it was very important that Kimmel referred to Alexandra Robbins’s Pledged in his chapter Girls in Guyland: Eye on the Guys. Although Pledged focuses specifically on the dynamics within one particular sorority, I would consider it a female parallel to Guyland. One mention of it did not seem like enough. A lot of the things he made seem a male pandemic (hazing rituals, homosociality, sex score-keeping, etc.) clearly encompass both genders. For instance, one girl in the sorority was badgered by her sisters to break up with her long-time boyfriend so that she could “score” just like the guys of Guyland. Subsequently, she was ostracized when she refused to do so.
Overall, Michael Kimmel’s Guyland gave a thorough and honest look into this new life phase. Although it is understandable that its focus was on men, it would have been highly feasible as well as beneficial to have included minorities and women more than he did.
Alexandra. Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities. New York: Hyperion, 2004
Hernandez 5 Works Cited Drysdale, Kirsten. "Labiaplasty." Hungry Beast. Posted March 10, 2010. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Web, http://hungrybeast.abc.net.au/tags/labiaplasty. Frye, Marilyn. The politics of Reality. Trumansburg, NY: Crossing Press, 1983.: 1-16. Kimmel, Michael S. Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men. New York: Harper, 2008. Pelka Fred. A Male Survivor Breaks His Silence. On The Issues Quarterly, 22 (Spring 1992): 811, 40. Robbins, Alexandra. Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities. New York: Hyperion, 2004