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Kimmel explores the perils of young men

A person’s lifespan can be classified into categories.

Toddlers are between ages 3 and 5, while a 12 year old is considered a tween. The teen years begin at 13, and middle age starts in a person’s 40s.

However, a territory tackled less frequently is ages 16 through 26.

Michael Kimmel, known for his scholarly work regarding men and masculinity, refers to this time as “Guyland.”

This stage of development was the focus at “An Afternoon With Dr. Michael Kimmel,” sponsored by PRISM, the College’s organization for LGBTQ individuals and their allies.

Kimmel spoke from the Kendall Hall Main Stage at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 20. This was his second visit to the College; the first occurred seven or eight years ago, but no one at the event recalled an exact date.

The sociologist discussed his book “Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men,” published in 2008 based on interviews with 400 males across the country.

“Guyland is not the Peter Pan syndrome,” Kimmel said. “It is not about young people refusing to grow up. It is a ‘Peter Panic’ syndrome — young people desperate to grow up.”

This is a time of questioning and turmoil, he said.

Kimmel listed five markers of adulthood: finishing an education, getting married, getting a job, moving out and having children. In the 1950s, 20.3 years was the average age of marriage. Currently it’s 28.4, according to statistics shared by the speaker, who noted that it now takes a decade after high school for a person to settle down.

Kimmel attributes this to changing trends in society, including a longer life expectancy.

“You are going to live longer than any generation,” he told the audience. The average age of death is projected to be 93.

Another factor that contributes to creating “Guyland”is the economy, saying that students would likely change the field they work in two or three times, during their lives.

He explained that workers in our generation move laterally across different career fields, rather than moving up the career ladder. He attributed this to the “three-month itch,” where a person takes a job, realizes it isn’t going anywhere and moves to another.

He called this “serial jobogamy,” to which the audience responded with laughter.

Michael Kimmel spoke to the College about the troubles that young men face from 16 to 26 years old. (Ashley Long / Photo Editor)

Changes between parents and children is another issue, which Kimmel referred to as “helicopter parents,” who micromanage every nanosecond of their kid’s life.

“It’s making a generation that is less resilient and far more risk averse,” he said.

When these young people go to college, they experience a withdrawal from the presence of adults in their lives.

“You have a whole group of men coming into college desperate and eager to prove their masculinity, and the grown ups are all gone,” Kimmel said. “So what you have on many college campuses is 18 year olds trying to prove their masculinity to 19 year olds. And that cannot work.”

He described in detail initiation rituals he learned about during his interviews, whether among athletic teams, fraternities or military organizations.

Another aspect of “Guyland” is its implications for women.

Women’s lives have changed fundamentally in the past 30-40 years, Kimmel said. They have made gender more visible, entered the workplace in unprecedented numbers and found better ways to balance work and family. Women also feel entitled to pleasure.

Still, women are unequal to men, and this is because of men’s privilege. The author explained that privilege is invisible to those who have it, whether regarding gender, race or class.

Kimmel said that equality cannot be discussed without confronting entitlement, and the resentment males have toward women entering arenas of their lives.

He discussed how not only is there a wage gap between women and men, but there is also an orgasm gap. According to a sex survey he helped conduct on college campuses, which reached more than 25,000 students, two-thirds of men admitted to having orgasms, while only one-third of women did.

Another discovery was that men dramatically overestimated the orgasm of their partners.

Kimmel explained this by saying that women fake it to make men feel good, which illustrates the common occurrence of women retreating to a position of taking care of men’s feelings.

Women’s role in “Guyland” is that they can either be “a babe or a bitch,” Kimmel said, and there is not much of an in-between.

Kimmel deemed unequal social lives the biggest irony of “Guyland,” but said his point is not to make people avoid this stage of development; he wants people to go through it effectively and more consciously, and acknowledge those who are marginalized.


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