I don’t hear them anymore. The drag racers.
They used to sound off at about 3 a.m., on the long street that runs a couple blocks behind where I live. The night would be quiet and still and all of a sudden there would be a roar, gears shifting, the drive to light speed.
And then they installed an automated traffic camera at the end of the street. And the noises stopped.
Is America waging a war on testosterone? Recently teen idol Justin Bieber got arrested for drag racing, resisting arrest and driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. This happened just a week after the media got the vapors because Richard Sherman, a professional football player, expressed pride in executing an amazing play and vanquishing a foe on the field. The vapors in the media triggered recently by Bieber’s ride and Sherman’s post game boast is beyond silly – it’s sad. It appears that we as a culture have decided that we don’t want men to act like men.
Yes, it’s a good thing that Justin Bieber was arrested for drag racing in Miami. He was allegedly under the influence, and someone could have gotten hurt – or worse. But what is almost as troubling is the worldwide eruption of puritanical disapproval of a nineteen year-old driving a car fast. There was glee and tsk-tsking the world over; on Fox, Bob Beckel, AA sponsor to the world, has already declared Bieber a drug addict; this because Bieber was showing the healthy signs of male testosterone. This was also the case with Richard Sherman, who has been put in stocks for an adrenaline-fueled celebration of an incredible play. There’s even a feminist (what else?) who recently argued that all sex is rape, period.
I don’t advocate guys doing idiotic things like hanging from a building with one hand for no reason. I’m not talking about chopping down trees, pulling a truck with your teeth, or drinking yourself into a stupor. Prudence is central to any sensible man’s psyche. Furthermore, it’s important to be a gentleman. But a gentleman with estrogen instead of testosterone is not a man. A man who’s never broken the speed limit, or climbed up a fire escape for a woman (provided she’s expecting him), or been kicked out of a gig because his band is too loud is not very interesting – or alive. If we shame these men into not pushing their limits, we may lose the next great builder, or astronaut, or warrior to defend us.
Recently, writer Chelsea Fagan offered her “24 Rules for Being a Gentleman in 2014”. A true gentleman will, among other things: learn how to dance; have a signature drink and a firm handshake; not be passive-aggressive; not use women sexually, be compassionate; be courteous; be self-reliant; be modest; and hold doors.
These are all good and worthwhile things for men to learn and for men to be. Yet an interesting chain of thought began to emerge in the comments section of Fagan’s original 24 rules. Men, and women, kept noting that many women claim to want a gentleman, and yet aren’t attracted to one when he is standing in front of her.
Commenter Rob put it this way:
The complexities of courting a woman can be difficult to distinguish for many men. The “mean guys” are doing one thing right, they are displaying alpha status. They are showing the woman up front that they don’t need them, they have their own interesting life. In essence, he views her as an equal. Putting a woman on a pedestal right away is off-putting. Every beautiful woman has 10+ men per day begging to be her prince charming. A woman wants a man who is present in his own life and can converse with her as a peer. Women are attracted to men that continually pique their interest and display an easy confidence. None of this has to be accomplished by being mean. What the mean guys are doing can be easily accomplished by gentle jabs and jests. This disarms her and lets her know that you are not intimidated by her and will stand toe to toe.
That’s well put, and I would take it one step farther. While it’s important for a man to learn how to be financially responsible, honor women, defend himself, be modest, dress to impress and do the other things on the Fagan list, I would argue that it’s also important that for some brief moments in his life – preferably when he is young – a man should be, at times, arrogant, a little reckless, and looking for kicks.
He should, in short, act like Justin Bieber and Richard Sherman.
With the feminists trying to outlaw masculinity, the nanny state banning everything from minibikes to football, and the conservatives turning us into the Knights of the Round Table, there’s not much room for the big, dumb, glorious bone-headedness that is the joy of testosterone and the American man. I understand, believe in, and promote the concept that virtue and self-restraint leads to freedom. Yet I also know that it’s is crucial for a man’s health and happiness that he occasionally do something daring and even borderline stupid. It’s part of our energy. With all that testosterone, the surging libido, the plain joy of being a powerful physical being in the big playground of the world, we need to get our ya-ya’s out. We need to rage, fight, light firecrackers. It’s why AC/DC exists. Justin Bieber and Richard Sherman, if not role models, are at least fully alive. They’re not wasting their lives sitting in a cubicle.
I admit it: I miss the drag racers who lit up the small hours behind my house. Yes, yes, I understand – something bad could have happened. And yes, a woman who likes a “bad boy” may have some issues of her own. But no fully alive female I’ve ever known has wanted to date Little Lord Fauntleroy. A prudent person will be able to find the line between healthy, thrilling young male behavior that can be channeled into building great buildings, protecting the weaker, and launching into space, and behavior that crosses into stupidity and self-destructiveness. A young guy who likes to drag race late at night is far different from a guy who puts his girlfriend in the shotgun seat next to him during that race. But still. The silence in the night behind my house doesn’t indicate safety as much as a culture that seeks to abolish risk taking and fun – a civilization losing tolerance for the men who built it.