The descent of man

We have seen the future and it belongs to womankind. Everything points that way. They are better at school, more employable, stronger in body and mind. Or so it seems. Male anxiety is all around; read it in the literature, see it in the dole queues, fee... Sperm: who's counting? A recent study in Paris has shown that sperm counts are falling at the rate of 2.6 per cent a year. It has concluded that the average man produces half the sp erm his grandfather did in his prime. The French study blames pollutants in the sea, and says th ey are also responsible for spontaneous abortions in women and sex-change fish at sewage outfalls. But in a recent issue of the Lancet, Danish biologists beli eve `One of the anthropological pleasures of the 1990s will be watching how men cop e with a new role - that of the `Verbal consent should be obtained with each new level of sexual contact/conduc t in any given interaction

Friday 16 June 1995 23:02

War is declared

"Men are the enemy. They know it - at least, they know there is a sex war on, an unusually cold one." Germaine Greer, February, 1970

Must try harder

Girls always did better than boys in the old 11-plus exam; now they are beating them in GCSEs. More than four out of ten girls achieve top grades, compared with only a third of boys. Last year, for the first time, girls had more top grades in science, a subject where boys have traditionally got the best results. In Scotland, the only GCSE subject in which boys obtained better results than girls in the 1993/94 academic year was Physical Education.

At A-level, more boys still get the top two grades. But amongst 18-year- olds, more girls pass three A-levels than boys. At university, male undergraduates gain more firsts - but also more thirds.

And even when they finish their education, there is more bad news for boys: they are more likely to be unemployed than girls after leaving school or university.

The big screen of unease

Approximately 95 per cent of those killed in films are men. The unwritten rule of thumb, as Warren Farrell points out in his book The Myth of Male Power, is that innocent women don't get killed after they have made three appearances in the story unless:

It is a horror movie (killing a man is not horrible enough to make it a horror movie);

The woman is shown to be not a "real woman", that is, she is an alien (Aliens, Blade Runner); she has all the negative characteristics of a man (Aliens); or she is a protagonist in the drama who is clearly crazy and a murderer (Misery, Fatal Attraction);

She threatens the life of an innocent woman (Shining Through, Fatal Attraction, Total Recall);

She has been seen in no more than three scenes (we haven't got to know her. She is not a real woman to us);

The rest of the film is focused on avenging her death (Death Wish), making it, in essence, a morality film showing that a woman killed leads to a man killed.

Thelma and Louise, widely touted as a film of women's liberation, was quite unlike any film with male heroes. Never in US or British film history have two men been celebrated as heroes for deserting their wives, meeting one female jerk after another, killing one woman and leaving another stiffed in the boot of a car in 120-degree desert heat.

Women in the pulpit

"The first women priests of the Church of England were ordained in an historic ceremony at Bristol Cathedral yesterday, marked by the symbolic adjustment of their clerical stoles. After seven decades of campaigning, they finally won a place at the altar alongside men in a service that lasted little more than two hours. It was led by the Right Rev Barry Rogerson, Bishop of Bristol, who welcomed 32 women as priests, the first of 1,200 to be ordained in the next three months." The Sunday Times, 13 March, 1994

Men's trouble

"We are living at an important and fruitful moment now, for it is clear to men that the images of adult manhood given by the popular culture are worn out; a man can no longer depend on them. By the time a man is 35 he knows that the images of the right man, the tough man, the true man which he received in high school do not work in life. ...the grief in men has been increasingly steadily since the start of the Industrial Revolution and the grief has reached a depth now that cannot be ignored..."

From the preface to Iron John: a book about men, by Robert Bly, published in 1990, in which the author thanks "the many men who have honoured me by telling me their own stories, or have simply sung, danced, or wept".

Anorexia for men

Anorexia and bulimia, formerly conditions associated with women, are now affecting men. Dr Christopher Freeman, consultant psychiatrist at the Cullen Centre for Eating Disorders at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, said that cases of eating disorders among men doubled in the six years up to 1993. "Once, our anorexia ratio was about 15 women to one man, and for bulimia it was 50 to one. Now it is more like ten to one and 20 to one."

The Information by Martin Amis

The novel begins: "Cities at night, I feel, contain men who cry in their sleep and then say Nothing. It's nothing. Just sad dreams. Or something like that... Swing low in your weep ship, with your tear scans and your sob probes, and you would mark them. Women - and they can be wives, lovers, gaunt muses, fat nurses, obsessions, devourers, exes, nemeses - will wake and turn to these men and ask, with female need-to-know, `What is it?' And the men say, `Nothing. No it isn't anything really. Just sad dreams.'"

Rock 'n' roll suicide

The death of the American grunge rock star Kurt Cobain and the ominous disappearance of Richey James of the British band Manic Street Preachers tapped into any amount of young male depression. The letters pages of the music papers were stashed with what were more or less suicide notes. So much so that Melody Maker felt moved to publish this message to readers: "Any of you having difficulty dealing with Richey's disappearance should not feel, or be made to feel, that any pain you are feeling on his behalf is unjustifiable or trivial. If it hurts, it's real enough. Write to us by all means, we're happy to give you an outlet, but that's about all we can do and there are people much better equipped to help you deal with it. You can write to your local branch of the Samaritans or you can call from anywhere, anytime. They will listen and you should talk about it.

The redundant male

"One of the anthropological pleasures of the 1990s will be watching how men cope with a new role - that of the redundant male. New technology will wipe out their traditional advantages at work, favouring, as it does, female skills based on dexterity, not strength.An influx of skilled, mature women into the workforce will erode the self-protective isolation on which men have built their authority.

"More than a quarter of live births are outside marriage, marginalising the father in the family; he will no longer automatically be the only, more even the main, breadwinner. As a final nail in the male coffin, by the mid-1990s it will be simple for single women who want children to become pregnant through artificial insemination. This is already available to a limited number of women in the specialist private clinics, and could well pave the way to a viable alternative for women to the old-fashioned male-female relationship."

Jane McLoughlin, The Demographic Revolution, 1991

Early death

Men die six years earlier than women on average. They have higher cholesterol levels, a worse diet, are more prone to heart disease and are more likely to die in a car accident. Kenneth Calman, the Chief Medical Officer, concluded in a 1992 report that "the scope for men to improve their health and prolong active healthy life is considerable."

Sexually harassed

In 1993, in what was a legal "first", Sabino Gutierrez, a Los Angeles whirlpool bath executive, won more than $1million after complaining of sexual harassment by the company's finance director, Maria Martinez. A 39-year-old married woman and mother of two, she was said to have bullied him into sexual intercourse.

Last year, former male employees at Jenny Craig Inc, a fitness and exercise chain in Boston, sued for sexual harassment and sex discrimination. The chain has 600 centres, with more than 90 per cent female workers. There is no man on the board.

The self-styled Boston Eight complained of "male-bashing". They said they were treated as second-rate workers and were the butt of sexual jokes. One claimed he was told his only hope of promotion was to change his sex and buy a push-up bra. Another maintained he was fired because of his gender, said: "I felt like a token pair of biceps, because the women were always asking me to lift heavy boxes, carry rubbish, start cars in the rain and shovel snow." An executive had apparently told him she had "dreamed of him naked".

A former woman manager admitted that men were not encouraged within the company because " they wanted management, more money and they wanted it faster because they had families."

The Child Support Agency

The CSA was born in April 1993 out of the Government's ill-fated "back to basics" drive. Welfare cheques to single mothers would be replaced by proper maintenance payments from errant fathers.

One case was that of Mancunian Alan Reavey, a 31-year-old divorced father of two. He was left with just one penny in his pocket after the CSA took pounds 86.72 and national insurance of 18p from his pounds 86.91 sick pay.

In January, the Secretary, of State for Social Security, Peter Lilley, bowed to pressure and announced that absent parents would not have to pay more than 30 per cent of their net income on child maintenance.

Jobs for the girls

The prognosis for men in the workplace looks distinctly bleak.

The percentage of men in the workforce has dropped over the past 20 years from 60 to 50 per cent, some 2.8 million men, against an influx of two million women. Now, most new jobs for men are part-time - a sharp, gender reversal in an economy that is, in general, shifting towards more part- time working.

In contrast, more women than men will be working by the year 2,000. Already, two out of three women work, 60 per cent of them full-time, six out of ten full-time, although women still earn only 72 per cent of men's average weekly earnings. Many employers prefer women because they consider them "more flexible". Women, used to dipping in and out of jobs to cope with their families, are more attuned to the new world of short-term contracts. According to the April employment figures, seven out of ten new jobs go to women.

In Islwyn, Neil Kinnocks's former constituency, once a coal-mining area, an electrical component factory recently opened with a workforce of 78 per cent women and 22 per cent men. Over the next five years, according to Equal Opportunities Commission figures, 300,000 traditionally "male'' jobs in engineering, building and manufacturing will disappear. About 500,000 new jobs in service industries and information technology will be largely filled by women.

As traditional blue-collar jobs continue to disappear, the unskilled young man can no longer expect to play the role of breadwinner. In January, for example, there were 127,000 men aged between 18 and 24 who had been unemployed for more than a year, compared with only 38,000 women.

"Young males have no role in society," Clare Short, Labour's spokeswoman on women's issues, has been reported as saying. "They can't get stable incomes, so they are useless partners or fathers."

Unemployment figures for April 1995 were:

Men 1,775,800

Women 552,100

Total 2,327,900

The Antioch College Sexual Offence Policy

From a university at Yellow Springs, Ohio, a code of conduct for the Nineties. It's serious.

1 For the purpose of this policy, "consent" shall be defined as follows: the act of willingly and verbally agreeing to engage in specific sexual contact or conduct.

2 If sexual contact and/or conduct is not mutually and simultaneously initiated, then the person who initiates sexual contact/conduct is responsible for getting the verbal consent of the other individual(s) involved.

3 Obtaining consent is an on-going process in any sexual interaction. Verbal consent should be obtained with each new level of physical and/or sexual contact/conduct in any given interaction, regardless of who initiated it. Asking "Do you want to have sex with me?" is not enough. The request for consent must be specific to each act.

4 The person with whom sexual contact/conduct is initiated is responsible to express verbally and/or physically her/his willingness or lack of willingness when reasonably possible.

5 If someone has initially consented but then stops consenting during a sexual interaction, she/he should communicate withdrawal verbally and/or through physical resistance. The other individual(s) must stop immediately.

6 To knowingly take advantage of someone who is under the influence of alcohol, drugs and/or prescribed mediation is not acceptable behavior in the Antioch community.

7 If someone verbally agrees to engage in specific contact or conduct, but it is not of her/his own free will due to any of the circumstances stated in (a) through (d) below, then the person initiating shall be considered in violation of this policy if:

a) the person submitting is under the influence of alcohol or other substances supplied to her/him by the person initiating;

b) the person submitting is incapacitated by alcohol, drugs, and/or prescribed medication;

c) the person initiating has forced, threatened, coerced, or intimidated the other individual(s) into engaging in sexual contact and/or sexual conduct.

Fathers need families

Each year, 175,000 children are born outside the legal framework of marriage; and one in five families has a single parent. Although the 1989 Children Act was intended to give unmarried fathers the same rights of parental responsibility as those within a marriage, they still have no undisputed rights of paternity and may not legally register the baby's birth. Even a married man has negligible power after a divorce. If he applies for joint custody of his children, he will be denied in 80 per cent of cases; if he applies for sole custody, he has only a ten per cent chance of success.

Genital tax

In Men are not Cost-Effective, a recent book by the American sociologist June Stephenson, she advocates that $100 (pounds 63) should be added to each man's income tax bill. This "genital tax", she says, should be imposed because in the USA 90 per cent of murderers and 94 per cent of prison inmates are male.

Research by Paul Lashmar

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