When asked about what they desire from their friendships, men are just as likely as women to say that they want intimacy. And, just like women, their satisfaction with their friendships is strongly correlated with the level of self-disclosure. Moreover, when asked to describe what they mean by intimacy, men say the same thing as women: emotional support, disclosure and having someone to take care of them.
Men desire the same level and type of intimacy in their friendships as women, but they aren’t getting it.
In an effort to understand why men’s friendships are less intimate than women’s, psychologist Niobe Way interviewed boys about their friendships in each year of high school. She found that younger boys spoke eloquently about their love for and dependence on their male friends. In fact, research shows that boys are just as likely as girls to disclose personal feelings to their same-sex friends and they are just as talented at being able to sense their friends’ emotional states.
But, at about age 15 to 16 — right at the same age that the suicide rate of boys increases to four times the rate of girls — boys start reporting that they don’t have friends and don’t need them. Because Way interviewed young men across each year of high school, she was able to document this shift. One boy, Justin, said this in his first year, when he was 15:
[My best friend and I] love each other… that’s it… you have this thing that is deep, so deep, it’s within you, you can’t explain it. It’s just a thing that you know that person is that person… I guess in life, sometimes two people can really, really understand each other and really have a trust, respect and love for each other.
By his senior year, however, this is what he had to say about friendship:
[My friend and I] we mostly joke around. It’s not like really anything serious or whatever… I don’t talk to nobody about serious stuff… I don’t talk to nobody. I don’t share my feelings really. Not that kind of person or whatever… It’s just something that I don’t do.
During these years, young men are learning what it means to be a “real man.” The #1 rule: avoid everything feminine. Notice that a surprising number of insults that we fling at men are actually synonyms for or references to femininity. Calling male athletes “girls,” “women” and “ladies” is a central part of motivation in sports. Consider also slurs like “bitch” and “pussy,” which obviously reference women, but also “fag” (which on the face of it is about sexual orientation, but can also be a derogatory term for men who act feminine) and “cocksucker” (literally a term for people who sexually service men). This, by the way, is where the ubiquitous slur “you suck” comes from; it’s an insult that means you give men blow jobs. (American men’s hidden crisis: they need more friends, Lisa Wade, Salon.com)
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Why, though, is there such a pervasive fear of being feminine? There's no logic to it all, even as the sad thing, schizophrenia, is actually a "solution," given impossible double-bind parental requirements, a la R.D. Laing?
Guys are afraid of being rendered feminine because in their pasts their lonely, depressed, patriarchy-abused mothers, overwhelmed them in their needs and made them feel female-poisoned (sucking cocks is actually considered an antidote to female poisons in some New Guinea tribes). Thereafter they both cherish anything that allows them to be close without being publicly accused of being girly, like staying home sick, and otherwise go nowhere near "intimacy," which reminds them too much of the other stuff that went along with it — being a plaything, incest.
There can be a dramatic change at the onset of puberty because many mothers more overtly abandon them then. They don’t talk about feelings and emotions, as a kind of autism-defense. They become all shell, so their loneliness infiltrates them, affects them, less.
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An interesting sidelight not mentioned in the article is the influence of stress and fear upon male bonding. Most veterans of war will state that male friendships formed during the times when mortality is threatened, are strong, intimate, and lasting. The same goes for jobs that expose males to inherent danger. Perhaps we males need such outside forces to focus our attention on how much we depend on others, rather than the constant call for independence and competition.
Emporium@halb Men at war are part of some righteous cause and are getting prepared to die heroically for their nation, or kill people less worthy than they are (which historically includes an awful lot of innocents). It may not be fear and stress that does it — or only — but rather a union born out of being similarly enfranchised.
halb@Emporium @halb Quite true. I have personally met two soldiers who loved war. One was Special Forces, and the other refused to return to Vietnam as a helicopter gunner when he realized he enjoyed gunning down people. I met him on the Neuropsychiatric ward on Guam where he had been sent; obviously, he was mentally ill if he did not want to kill people.
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This culture does not allow men and boys to be close to anyone. The strong silent type is still the standard.
In other parts of the world, men are very intimate with each other. Male affection is kissing, hugging and holding hands this is the course completely non-sexual. In these places men and women are very close as they are emotionally, to a point, the same. No one would call these men feminine. They are not.
Anyone who wants to criticize British chilliness always looks to some place like rural Greece or Italy to show what men ought to be like. They say all their touching just shows how much more open and honest they are.
The rest of the chilly world kind of just nods at this, because it seems like you're just nodding acknowledgment at people who haven't realized the world leader status that comes out of stoic Northern distance and restraint — the self-compliment it provides, the reminder of their own ostensible strength, is the only reason they temporarily accede to the argument that some other people in the world don't just possess a different culture but an ideal one.
But if you mention further that this intimacy extends to children in their parents' bed, that the children will sleep with their parents near into adulthood, and that this too is of course not sexual but a wonderful thing, they're going to retreat before they risk hearing any further—they’re invested in thinking of the South in a certain kind of way, and this would have them calling “crock!” on the whole thing and leave them fishing for some other kind of support.