As I travel around speaking about faith and popular culture. I often find myself cornered after my sessions by small groups of frustrated young women in their twenties. The women want me to explain to them why young men seem to be dropping off the church radar. They are very often quite passionate in their belief that there are no ‘eligible’ men around. The women who have managed to snare a partner often struggle to understand or communicate with their male companions.
Firstly a couple of things need to be noted. Male participation in the church in the West is on a massive decline. The second thing to remember is that this opinion from women that men are ‘dropping of the radar’ is not just held by women inside the church. I recently watched an interview with a demographics expert who discovered that this is one of the main questions that women are asking about our culture. It seems that we are in a crisis of masculinity.
For me this is a huge issue to which little time and effort has been given. However some clues can be found in the various models of masculinity that are communicated to young men through the new media environment. Here some of the main models that I have observed of heterosexual masculinity that young men are being exposed to and imitating at the moment. You have heard of metrosexuals; now meet some of the other models of masculinity that young men are being exposed to.
Rageasexuals are a group of young males who can be defined by a sense of disconnection and rage that they feel about their place in society. The feel powerless as males and thus find it necessary to participate in activities and interests which communicate a raw sense of rage and discontent. Often these young men can be found in economically marginalized areas. The music industry has recognized the massive audience of retrosexuals and heavily market metal and hardcore rap to this market. Social status and meaning for the Rageasexuals comes from their ability to emphasize to others through their clothes, consumer choices and behavior their role as outsiders.
This group has come of age during a hyper proliferation of pornography in our society. From the non stop rotation of ‘booty’ music videos on MTV, to the rise of post-feminist backlash mags like FHM, to the domination of graphic sexual imagery on the internet. For this group life is a sexual supermarket, women are products who offer the consumer hedonistic experiences. The Hypersexual’s hero’s are Hugh Hefner founder of playboy magazine and musicians such as snoop doggy dog, who’s videos are filled with semi-naked girls dancing and drug consumption, despite the fact that in real life Snoop is a tee-totaling little league football coach, happily married with children. For the Hypersexual the hyperreal sex of porn videos is normal, girls who don’t act like pornstars are strange and your social standing is based on your level of sexual conquest. For the Hypersexual, commitment to a partner is no longer a necessary part of human life when sex is available free of responsibility.
The Riskasexual has abandoned any sense of common sense and maturity to pursue a life of reckless abandon and risky, dangerous behavior. The MTV series Jackass portrays the Riskasexual subculture par excellence. In a youth culture which places huge importance on experience and shock, the Riskasexual seeks activities which combine both, giving the participant an adrenaline rush. Injuries become proud battle scars, and the video camera becomes the method of recording for posterity dangerous stunts. It is interesting that in the MTV promotional advertisement for Jackass that MTV picked the Trent Reznor penned tune ‘Hurt’ performed by Johnny Cash which says ‘I hurt myself today to see if I still feel, I focus on the pain the only thing that’s real’ . In the subjective world of postmodernity where truth is relative, the Riskasexual finds meaning in the primacy of sensation and experience. The dark side of the Riskasexual phenomenon that Jackass and the world of extreme sports does not show is the sheer volume of young men killed by risky behaviors such as driving at high speeds, drug use and suicide.
The Emosexual is a young man who has come of age in a post-Spice Girl’s age of ‘girl power’ where many girls have learnt to use their sexuality as a form of sexual power and quite often take the role of sexual aggressor. This trend can be observed by Gen Y films ‘Garden State’ and ‘Elizabethtown’ where the plot centers around a depressed, emotionally disconnected male lead character who’s life is transformed by a emotionally strong, spontaneous and life embracing female. Thus the female for the Emosexual is not an object of sexual desire but rather represents a way of recovering from depression and becoming emotionally whole. In contrast to the voracious sexual desire of the Hypersexual the Emosexual is almost asexual. The spiritual grandfather of the Emosexuals is former Smiths lead singer and celibate Morrissey who’s melancholic songs of male shyness and emotional brokenness paved the way for the posturing of many of today’s Indie and Emo frontmen.
The Technosexual is a young man who has a passion for technology (particularly computers) and devotion for various fantasy and sci-fi subcultures. For many young men who find themselves powerless in a changing sexual and social landscape, computers and fantasy worlds become something that is controllable and a form of escapism. It is natural that the Technosexual has arisen as technology has become an all pervasive medium in human sexuality as text message flirting, DVD and internet porn, chat lines and internet dating are become the medium in which many people live out their sexuality.
Sadly many resources for Christians around the issue of masculinity represent a past model of masculinity that has passed. The stereotype of the strong, impassable John Wayne male that many Christian books deal with is a rarity amongst Young men. We need desperately young male leaders to explore what a balanced, redeemed model of masculinity looks like.