Are Mormon Men Sissies?

Much has been written here about the struggles Mormon women face in carving out their own identities and finding personal happiness while fulfilling expectations of the Church and the broader society, particularly with respect to pursuing both a career and a family. This issue is a hot button topic for many. But what about the men? Are there similar contradictions in Mormon doctrine and culture that make it difficult for Mormon men to reach personal happiness and fulfillment in the Church, while living up to the expectations of the “real” world?

For example, think of the stereotypical male portrayed in popular culture. I think of someone like Al Pacino in the Godfather I and II movies, or Gordon Gekko (Donald Trump?) from the classic ’80s movie, “Wall Street” (Greed is good!). These men are tough (you’re FIRED!), they do not show any weaknesses. They use violence and their power and financial influence to control the actions of others. These men also typically enjoy drinking and carousing with women, gambling, and flouting the law.

Mormon men, on the other hand, cry publicly at Fast and Testimony meeting when sharing personal spiritual experiences. Mormon men are forbidden to participate in the quintessential male bonding activity of drinking. Ideally, Mormon men sleep with only one woman their entire lives. A completely unrealistic expectation in American culture today. Not only that, there’s no fighting allowed, no violence to get what you want or to control others. Mormon men must persuade through “long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned.”

Recently, I read an article in the New York Times discussing the rise of morally ambiguous characters on television (i.e., Sawyer on “Lost” and Dr. House on “House”), and how these characters are very popular with men. The article quoted a scholar saying that men identify with these characters because they are frustrated that society “has told them to be powerful and effective and to get things done, and at the same time they’re living, operating and working in places that are constantly defying that.” (Professor Robert Thompson, Syracuse University).

Do you agree with this statement? Do you think that Mormon men are frustrated by the constraints imposed on them by the Church? And, more generally, how do Mormon men balance the expectations of society with the expectations of the Church in finding their place in this world?


  1. My wife and I like House. He’s come a ways since his “Jeeves and Wooster” days. I’m not sure whether I identify with the character though.

  2. Jesus persuaded through “long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned.” But, he was no sissy. He kicked some butt when the moneychanger’s took over his Father’s house, repeatedly stood up to the Pharisees in the face of grave danger, and facing execution he didn’t back down at all.

    Societal definitions of “macho” do not a non-sissy make. Plenty of guys who are full of womanizing drunken braggadocio are just blowhard bullies who immediately back down when faced with someone who stands up to them.

    There are plenty of examples of Strong Silent Types who aren’t sissies. Take a look at any old Spaghetti Western where the “macho” guys are usually the ones who end up dead in the street, with their boots on.

  3. I’ve played enough Church basketball to be able to bear solemn testimony that there are plenty of testosterone-rich-macho-Mormon-men who like to throw elbows, scream in your face, and let loose with a few (or more than a few) choice four letter words when things just don’t go their way. In fact, our Stake has implemented a “happy room” where a referee can banish a “disruptive” player during basketball games. There, the player must listen to a CD playing primary songs and sit in front of a big picture of the temple.

    The funny thing is, many of these same men will get up in fast and testimony meeting and bear a teary-eyed testimony about the Gospel. In some ways we have a weird-double identity thing going on in the Church today. There’s certainly a tendency to idealize the Gordon Gecko persona in the Church. As a student at “the BYU” I remember a discussion with a lady friend about whether I would pursue a career that would pay big bucks. When I expressed not much interest in this route, she said “But if you want to have higher callings in the Church, you need to have this kind of career. Just look at the General Authorities, Stake Presidents, Mission Presidents, even Bishops…” I honestly think this is wrong (both descriptively and normatively), but I do think there is a perception that this is the case among some Church members.

    Contrast this with the Gospel injunction to put Church and family first. There are very few men who have the ability to achieve Gecko-esque success and live a Christian life and raise a happy family. There are some high profile examples in the Church, but they prove my point precisely because they are so exceptional. In reality, Mormon men do get pulled in different directions here. I’m not sure if it’s truly an issue of “sissification”, but there’s something going on that’s not quite right.

  4. Elisabeth,
    It sounds like you are talking about a physical manliness, as if our gender derives from physical strength. I’m sure there are much smarter people out there that know more about gender and what makes a man a man, but I have a hard time defining us as men because we eat steak, drive fast and wear flannel (I try to make fun of these men as often as I can). Of course, this is coming from someone who has been seen wearing a pink shirt to church.

    I mean, is a sissy someone who is weak physically? or morally? And whose morals are you basing this on? Does confidence matter?

  5. ED: Yes, I agree that there are extremes (!) at each end of the spectrum, i.e., the blowhard bully and the strong silent type. I guess I’m more interested in what defines a man vs. what defines a Mormon man. Do you see any substantive differences? What does being Mormon bring to or detract from being a man?

    Rusty – LOL! Love pink shirts. You raise a good question about the definition of “sissy”. I was using it in terms of the contrast between the prototypical Mormon male vs. the prototypical American male. Maybe these prototypes are not so far apart after all (besides the no drinking and no extramarital sex).

    Travis – I agree with you (surprise!). I think Mormon men do struggle to figure out how they can be happy meeting both sets of expectations, but I haven’t heard much about these struggles from men. There’s definitely a difference in how men and women struggle with these expectations (and whether or not they share their experiences with others), but I’m not sure how to identify it effectively.

  6. Hi elisabeth,

    As always good topics.

    I think that Mormon men run the gamut of masculine to effeminate. I myself am mostly masculine (jock, guns, own biz) with a few soft sides to me. (children mostly)

    Most Mormon men I know seem pretty secure in there “manliness”. That is probably why you hear little of their “struggles”

    The gospel does seem to soften us (men) in some key areas. (This is good imho) One of them is putting our wives and children first and then ourselves. The men in my ward are less involved in personal hobbies and more involved with our wives and children then the other local men it seems. Also most mormon men I know are more involved with actual childrearing than my nonmember friends. Also Mormon men myself included seem a bit more able to share emotions with others. This may come from our missions.

    This is all just opinion of the top of my head so please do not take me to the woodshed.

  7. Great question, Elisabeth, and nice thoughts on the issue. This is one that has kicked around in my own mind for some time. And, not surprisingly, I find myself quite conflicted.

    On the one hand, I like to tell myself that it takes _more_ strength, _more_ manliness, _more_ what-have-you, to force myself to dominate my baser nature. So, for example, I think that it may in fact be a sign of strength that Mormon men are expected to limit themselves to sex within marriage rather than letting themselves be led around by their penises. (I think that Travis has it exactly right on this issue).

    On the other hand, that’s an awfully good cover story. I think that there are at least some Mormon men who are true milquetoasts, afraid of their shadows, who hide behind their morals to escape the fact that they never do anything daring or exciting in their lives. And then the $20,000 question — is that me? I don’t know, to tell the truth. It’s a scary thought.

    On the other hand, I also think that the worldly accoutrements may be overrated. I didn’t fit in well in high school, and for a long time I blamed it on my church membership. If only I weren’t a weird Mormon, if only I were one of the party animals who was drinking and sleeping around, then I wouldn’t be such a geek. But as time went by, I had to admit to myself that there were a lot of people who _were_ drinking and sleeping around, and that many of those people didn’t fit in particularly well either. So I’ve come to peace (I think) with my Mormon geekiness, mostly by admitting that if I weren’t Mormon I would still probably be a geek. But at times I wonder . . .

    So yeah, I’m conflicted. Deeply. I don’t _want_ to be a milquetoast. (Who does?) I like to play the part of Mormon badass — at least as far as my conscience will let me — by eating chicken marsala, dropping the occasional cuss word, having the occasional poker night with friends. (25 cent chips — yeah, we’re real badasses alright). And I feel a vague urge when I pass the leather jacket display to buy a jacket and get a Harley and a tattoo. But I doubt it will happen. Instead, I’ll satisfy my conflicted rebellious streak by wearing pink shirts to church. Yeah, I’m a bad one alright. Badassness, thy name is Kaimi.

  8. BBell – I really like your point that Mormon men may not feel comfortable sharing their personal identity struggles with others, but that they have an easier time sharing emotional spiritual experiences with others. Interesting. I think you’re right, and I wonder why this is.

  9. Hi E,

    I think its from our missions. My whole mission I spent sharing how the gospel has helped me. Its easy post mission for me to share with my wife, church class, etc. how I was reading Alma last night and…….I could even bust a tear and still feel manly.

    Mormon men are different this way from our non-member friends.

  10. Kaimi,
    Let me just confirm that your geekiness has nothing to do with your Mormonness :)

    In your search for the perfect Mormon man, what are you seeking? The Mormon sissy or the Mormon badass?

  11. The irony of the scene is hilarious: Me and Steve Evans, two utter urban sissies (don’t disagree with me Steve, Mr. Dance Dance Revolution), watching, and enjoying Fight Club. Taylor Durden we ain’t. Pure escapism.

  12. Elizabeth: These men are tough (you’re FIRED!), they do not show any weaknesses.

    I think it is interesting that you chose only cruel movie characters as examples of the “stereotypical male portrayed in popular culture”. This seems skew this conversation a bit I think. It is true that such cruel men fit one stereotypical male, but there are lots of other stereotypical portrayals as well. I think Mormon men vary in their proclivities as much as any other group. We hope the difference will be that Mormon men consciously choose not to be cruel even when they have power to do so (see section 121)

    Travis: The funny thing is, many of these same men [who are hot heads in basketball] will get up in fast and testimony meeting and bear a teary-eyed testimony about the Gospel.

    I actually think this shows a consistency in the character of these men. They have their emotions on their sleeves both during a heated game of hoops and while bearing testimony. Maybe it could be commended for having no guile!

    Elizabeth: What does being Mormon bring to or detract from being a man?

    Mormonism mostly give “manliness” a philosophy I think — and a definition. We teach a robust form of free will in Mormonism and we teach of a potential to become like God. So being Mormon means we men are taught that we are powerful enough to control ourselves… and in so doing we become more powerful — but specifically in the sense that God is powerful. If we ever offend the rules of Godly power then it is “amen to the … authority of that man”. (Of course all of this applies to women as well — again see section 121).

  13. I think this doesn’t just apply to mormon men, but to many religious men in general. Born again Christian men often have some of the same qualities AND restrictions in their lives.

    My own husband is the sweetest man you will ever meet – slow to anger, very loving and sweet with his kids and with me. But he’s still strong and confident and masculine. He loves to do stereotypically masculine things, like hunt and go four wheeling and waterski and mess around with cars. He just has that extra seasoning of being in touch with his feelings, thinking about what he ultimately wants to be like…

  14. Rusty – don’t make this about me, buddy. :)

    Kaimi – thanks for your thoughts on this. I think it’s unfortunate that many men have staked their masculinity on how much money they make, how many beers they can pound, and how many women they have slept with, but that’s the current state of affairs. The happiest people are people who don’t bend to these stereotypes (within the Church or within the real world), and find their own way.

    Ronan – it’s Tyler. And Tyler definitely was not Mormon.

  15. (I’ve got to learn to actually digest these thoughts before hitting “Add comment.” On the other hand, two years of blogging evidence shows that that’s unlikely to happen — can’t teach an old blogger new tricks. And besides, isn’t it so much more manly to simply fire off half-coherent thoughts? Straight ahead and damn the torpedoes!)

    So it occurred to me that Mormon culture seeks to redefine masculinity. And that’s not a bad thing.

    On the one hand, many of the traditional trappings of masculinity are kept. Joseph Smith and Mormon and the stripling warriors are large in stature. Joseph wrestles. And yet they pray. The message is there — “real men say their prayers.” Not the idea that a masculine ideal should be abandoned, but that it should be redefined. (I really like this redefinition in some ways — for example, I love it that playing with kids adds to my masculine credibility, rather than taking away.)

    The redefinition project dovetails with the Friberg-ization effect: The portrayal of spiritual giants — Nephi and Ammon and the stripling warriors — as seriously buff (and they don’t even use steroids!). The masculine ideal is redefined as the stripling warrior. This is a guy who bench presses 400 pounds without breaking a sweat, but also says his prayers at night and respects his mother.

    How effective is the attempt to redfine the masculine ideal? I don’t know. We see many attempts to redefine masculinity, by different groups. Gays try to push for one redefinition, geeks for another (Gandalf as the masculine ideal). We’re offering our own counter-model.

    I don’t know how much traction these countermodels get outseide of the particular community. But within the community, I think it has quite a bit of appeal. I guess it’s working. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

  16. I don’t think the church has anything to do with putting constraints on men. They can place them on themselves by:

    1. pride
    2. lust
    3. materialism

    There are plenty of temptations in that direction. Some of our institutions don’t provide a lot of clarity. I see so many BYU graduates who just want a good job in a corporation. They may as well hand over their manhood on the way in. Real men don’t work for big companies! or big law firms! or big consulting firms! Real men don’t get compensated with benefits!

    It can of course take a few years after college for someone to become a real man so temporary servitude may be useful but most of the time the wife demands a big house in the suburbs in the right “socially in” ward. Then one two three they are stuck in bondage.

    The doctrines of the church have nothing to do with emasculation.

  17. a random John says:

    Brigham Young had dozens of wives and ruled much of the western US with an iron fist! What could be more manly?

    I know plenty of manly Mormon men. Even the wider world would consider them manly. I don’t personally aspire to that brand of manliness, but I don’t think that it is entirely incompatible with an LDS lifestyle. You just have to shoot more bears and use a black power rifle to make up for the fact that you don’t drink.

  18. One aspect of this that has not been brought up (probably for good reason, as I may find out), is that it seems to me that women are more likely to verbalize their frustration than men are. I believe that is why you may hear more of the frustration women feel as opposed to men.

    I live outside the mountain time zone and so most of the people I associate with at work and in the community don’t now anything about us ‘normons’. I am often having to explain why I can’t drink a beer while participating in the company golf outing and other similar stuff. I find it a real barrier to creating natural friendships and gaining genuine acceptance amongst these piers. I don’t necessarily regret this and have never considered dropping my standards to fit in, but often must accept not fitting in with local males in a meaningful way.

  19. I think that there are at least some Mormon men who are true milquetoasts, afraid of their shadows, who hide behind their morals to escape the fact that they never do anything daring or exciting in their lives. And then the $20,000 question — is that me?

    I’ve wondered the same thing about myself. I’m a biologist in training and the great aspiration of scientists is to make a some significant contribution to to curing a disease or to mankind’s understanding of the world. Scientists like Einstein are the ideal. I read a biography of Einstein and it really made me feel like I couldn’t and shouldn’t aspire to that level of scientific success because of my family responsibilities. Einstein was not what I would consider a good husband or father (he wasn’t exceptionally bad, just neglectful). His devotion was to his work and it seems to me that if he was less devoted to his work he wouldn’t have accomplished what he did. Knowing this really affected me and made me feel like I need to aspire to less in a worldly sense in order to achieve my aspirations as a father. But I wonder sometimes if I’m just being lazy or if I’m looking for a reason to aim lower and using my family responsibilities as justification to do so.

    The same kind of conflict makes me uncomfortable with being fully devoted to church service. I wonder how good of a family man Joseph Smith was (or even our current leaders that are so devoted to the Church), or how appropriate it is for us to ask our bishops to put so much time into their callings at the expense of time with their family. In all honesty I dread that kind of calling because I feel like it would make it difficult to live up to my expectations of myself as a husband and father. Then that same question comes to mind: am I just being lazy and looking for an excuse not to be fully devoted to the Church? I don’t know.

    I do know that in my daydreams of my ideal future I don’t see what kind of job I’m doing or what kind of church calling I have. I see owning a house, having financial security, and spending time with my family.

  20. I think that there are two factors. One in the church and one outside the church. The Lord gave Joseph Smith section 121 for a reason…he was not the picture of its personificaiton. Then you have the idea of 19th century patriarchs who have, shall we say, more outlets for their procriative proclivities. The Church’s definition of what a man is has changed drastically.

    I am also reminded of the recent discussion of the education of boys. We are forcing boys to learn like girls and consequently they account for the super-majority of Ritilan and other stimulent perscriptions. I’m not sure the Church is any different (though we still have scouts). I mean, sit still for three hours a day on sunday and be reverent?

  21. C’mon Elisabeth, you know that’s what this post is about, you want the badass but can’t reconcile that with your attraction to men who cry during testimony meeting :)

  22. In October 1999 General Conference Bishop Richard C. Edgley spoke about being a man and said this, “…you can describe a man in inches, pounds, complexion, or physique. But you measure a man by character, compassion, integrity, tenderness, and principle. Simply stated, the measures of a man are embedded in his heart and soul, not in his physical attributes (see 1 Sam. 16:7). But they can be viewed in conduct and demeanor. The qualities of manhood are so often evident in this thing we call countenance. When Alma queried, “Have ye received his image [meaning the Savior—the true man] in your countenances?” (Alma 5:14), he, my friend, was talking about the attributes of true manhood.”

    I don’t really care how the world defines being a man. Most of the macho guys I know are simply hiding behind a facade of fear. I lke Bishop Edgley’s definition and yes, I am a teary-eyed testimony giver. The last fight I got in was when I was 16 and Charlie Moon knocked me out with one punch. I didn’t feel it, I didn’t see it coming. I just woke up on the ground with a bloody lip.

    I knew then that I was a lover, not a fighter. I like being me…most of the time.

  23. I’m a sissy.

  24. Real men don’t need somebody else to define what a real man is. I think part of the answer is what is “real”? The Real Me doesn’t hunt, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like an afternoon at the shooting range. I admit it, I loved the fact that part of being in the military was that I got to shoot an M-16. And it really was an accident that I flipped the switch that converted it from single-shot to automatic.

    And I cried watching the Charlie Brown Christmas Special this year, just like I do every year. Neither one of these examples means I am more a “real man” than not–but I think they show that I am (or at least try to be) “real.”

  25. Rusty,

    Of course she wants the badass — she’s a woman, and it’s an immutable rule that all women want the badass. (This is not at all unrelated, by the way, to the fact that all men want to _be_ the badass). :P

    (And by the way, most _men_ want the badass, too. However, that’s a lot trickier of a role for a woman to play. The line between the Angelina-Jolie, devil-may-care badass on the one hand, and the needy-girl-who-throws-herself-at-men-for-validation on the other hand, is a fuzzy one. Yet the one is definitely NOT the other. And because the line is not well defined, trying to be the badass is a dangerous game for women to play).

    Elisabeth writes:

    I think it’s unfortunate that many men have staked their masculinity on how much money they make, how many beers they can pound, and how many women they have slept with, but that’s the current state of affairs. The happiest people are people who don’t bend to these stereotypes (within the Church or within the real world), and find their own way.

    Spot on. I tell myself this intellectually. And yet, on a visceral level, it can be hard to fully accept.

    I think it’s clearly right on an intellectual level. There are many of the traditional manly things that LDS men _can_ do. We can run marathons (some of us!) or shoot bears or play loud electric guitars. We can rock climb and skydive and go canoeing.

    So what isn’t allowed? Sex. Alcohol. And what’s really missing there? Not a lot, really, when one thinks about it.

    What’s so manly about alcohol? It’s hard to define. Drinking a few beers isn’t like running a marathon or playing guitar — the only requirement is money. You buy the alcohol, and you drink it. Um, what’s so cool about that? And then maybe you throw up. Wow — I can’t believe I’m missing out on my chance to worship the porcelain goddess. Boy, does that failure make me question my masculinity.

    Sex is trickier. We’re conditioned to want sex; we hear of the sexual exploits of manly men (even in the bible); it’s harder to pass that one off as a silly social construct.

    And yet, is there a real correlation between manliness and number of sexual partners? Just watch Seinfeld: Even George — who is about as far from the masculine ideal as one can get — still manages to sleep with a fair number of attractive women. Look around your workplace, and you’ll see the freak-of-nature guy with bad teeth and B.O. who still takes a different 21-year-old home every weekend. It’s apparently (and I say this solely from an observational standpoint!) not all that difficult.

    There was a book a few years ago that generated some buzz — a guy wrote a tell-all about how he had slept with all sorts of pretty women in Manhattan. And then one of the women wrote back, in, and it was brutal. Her take was “we got drunk a few times, and I felt sorry for him since he looked like Milhouse from the Simpsons.” Ouch! Yet apparently that’s all it takes these days to sleep around. Is that really a good barometer then of manliness and masculinity?

    I tell myself this, and it makes sense intellectually. Yet perhaps it’s a sign of how deeply the cultural norms affect me, that I don’t know if I entirely believe my own arguments.

    (Sheesh, I’ve got to stop writing such novels. Writing 2000 word comments is not, I fear, particularly manly.)

  26. I don’t cry.

    But not because of a societal pressure to avoid crying because it wouldn’t be masculine. I don’t cry because it’s never really done anything for me. I stopped crying one day when I was young and I skinned my knee. I started to cry and realized that even though I was crying, it still hurt. So I stopped doing it.
    When my close friend died of Cystic Fibrosis, I thought I might cry. But I didn’t because I realized that even if I started crying, it would still hurt. So I didn’t.
    A lot of my “masculine” behaviors (Not whining, crying, pouting, or submitting to that which I think is wrong, learning to fix cars and other stuff, building up my physical strength and the rest of it) are part of my behavior purely for practical reasons. There is lots of work to be done during a short earth life and crying has never changed a flat tire, paid the mortgage or diminished the onslaught of evil.

    That’s why I don’t cry.

  27. “shoot bears”

    Can I also contend that shooting animals for sport is actually one of the things LDS men cannot do and that there is a whole group of members who have a lot of repenting to do.

    *Threadjack concluded. Proceed with your original discussion*

  28. Kaimi, I think it is more than drinking and sex. We are to be reverent, patient, meek, and everything section 121. Now, those are all good things; however, like the boys who are forced to be educated in the feminized pedagogy, there is a tension with our physiology.

  29. I tend to think that the ‘mate-for-life’ animals tend to give a good measure of what masculine and feminine mean. There is great pressure on the males to prove that they will be good mates. Among humans, while women are judged by themselves and others on their appearance, that is often *all* they are judged by (be it good or bad is another topic). Men on the other hand have pressure to prove that for one reason or another they would make a good father and mate. Our culture is such that is has doesn’t pay attention to the connection between attractive traits and their indications of good fatherhood. Money is attractive beacause it means food and shelter. Strength is attractive because it means physical protection. Physical health & good looks are attractive because it means healthy kids. Status is attractive because it means social benefits.
    Perhaps mormon men seem emasculated by the world’s standards because among the church’s culture the connections between good fatherhood and attractive traits are different, or have additional standards. A man who cries at testimony meeting is attractive because LDS women see him as someone who will teach their kids the gospel. Men who are patient and reverent are seen as spiritual and therefore someone who will ‘preside in the home’ with righteousness. Also among the LDS it isn’t uncommon for “Spiritual” to be a status symbol. LDS men aren’t sissies, they’re just doing what they have to to attract mates, or at least mates of their own species.

  30. What if sport is just one of the motives for shooting animals, and perhaps not the central motive? Is it ok then?

    For example, someone wrote recently on the NY Times OpEd page that more New Yorkers should take up hunting because it’s the ecologically right thing to do. We’ve killed off the cougars and wolves and other natural predators of the whitetail deer, provided a huge suburban salad bar for them, and now we’re just going to (1) let them starve–overgrazing and all that–or (2) let them die on the front end of our SUVs? Wouldn’t a well-placed round of buckshot (or if they allowed hunting here with high-powered rifles, a well-aimed .30-’06 slug) be a kinder, quicker way to go?

    “So, I’m not hunting for sport. I’m hunting to restore ecological balance. And, I really enjoy the thrill of finding and killing my prey.”

    If I took the quotation marks off, Elisabeth, would that make me macho enough for you? :-)

  31. Kaimi: “I don’t _want_ to be a milquetoast. (Who does?)”

    Of course, the label “milquetoast” has a negative connotation. But, strictly speaking, if you break that stereotype down to its elements…um, what’s wrong with being milquetoast, Kaimi? And are you so sure NO ONE wants to be one? I think I might. Is a milsquetoast someone unembarassed to, when caught up in a conflict that looks likely to only cause lots of pain all around, say: “You know, you’re right, you win, thank you for helping me see the light, I’ll leave now,” and then walk away? If so, then I hold milquetoasts quite highly. We often–though ambivalently–hold out as a model someone who is brave enough to walk away from a fight, but of course such a person has to walk away with their “honor” or their “integrity” or whatever…which is often just an excuse to return to the fight with even greater righteous fury. Is a milquetoast someone unattached to the world? Someone who can say with perfect equaminity “You know, if you feel that strongly about it, you must be right, this misunderstanding must have been all my fault, I’m sorry,” and then turn around and go back to his kids and tending to his garden? If so, I’m all (or at least mostly) for it. Obviously, such a lack of attachment is hardly without costs, and has a real selfish side to it as well. Still, in general, within certain limits, it seems to me that we all could use a good dose of humble milquetoastery.

  32. For me, I know I don’t fit the “worldly” view of manliness. I wouldn’t fit it if I were not LDS due to the fact that I find most, if not all, sports completely boring. Football does nothing for me. I cry everytime I see A Christmas Carol or when I read or watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I’m not even sure why I do this. I cry when I watch Harry Potter.

    Anyway, I think that if somehow the constraints of the church somehow force us to be “sissies”, (which I don’t beleive) that’s a good thing.

    We are to be in the world, but not of the world.

  33. Okay, Ian. This one is for you. But only because your last comment practically begs for it.

    Sam Baldwin: Although I cried at the end of “the Dirty Dozen.”
    Greg: Who didn’t?
    Sam Baldwin: Jim Brown was throwing these hand grenades down these airshafts. And Richard Jaeckel and Lee Marvin
    [Begins to cry]
    Sam Baldwin: were sitting on top of this armored personnel carrier, dressed up like Nazis…
    Greg: [Crying too] Stop, stop!
    Sam Baldwin: And Trini Lopez …
    Greg: Yes, Trini Lopez!
    Sam Baldwin: He busted his neck while they were parachuting down behind the Nazi lines…
    Greg: Stop.
    Sam Baldwin: And Richard Jaeckel – at the beginning he had on this shiny helmet…
    Greg: [Crying harder] Please no more. Oh God! I loved that movie.

    (Sheesh — I’m quoting Sleepless in Seattle on a thread about masculinity. I guess I really am a lost cause.)

  34. Wow – great comments! Thanks, everyone.

    J. Stapley and Eric – I think the outside the Church vs. inside the Church definition is a good question. Does being a Mormon man make it more difficult to bond with non-Mormon men? Are there other barriers besides the Word of Wisdom?

    Russell – the example that popped into my mind as I was reading your comment was the 2004 Presidential election between “milquetoast” John Kerry and “stay the course” George W. Bush.

    Geoff J. – you are right that choosing black and white caricatures of masculinity skews the discussion somewhat, but who do you think the prototypical male is in American culture today (if you had to choose)? I’m curious.

    And as for the bad boys vs. nice guys debate, the bad boys may get all the attention, but nice guys get the girl in the end. Or the bad boys realize they have to change into a nice guy to get the girl.

    Mark B. – um, no.

  35. In honor of this post I give you a link to a bunch of Vin Diesel jokes.

  36. Of course if we could get Joseph Smith to wrestle Vin Diesel, Joseph Smith would win.

  37. To add to Geoff J, I don’t know if I could pinpoint a single prototypical male, but whoever it is, it definitely includes the characteristics of kind and “sensitive.” Look at romantic comedies of the last five years – the men therein are disproportionately artists of some kind, painters, crafters, writers. The ideal male characters invariably include a soft, sensitive side – usually to convince the audience that the girl really would fall in love with him.

  38. I think that, in some ways, society is going the other way in regards to how it wants men to be. Looking at the Meterosexuals and all that, us “sissies” might be considered to be too manly.

  39. Ryan,

    I was wondering what you made of Pres Monsons Pheasant hunting trips that he has referenced recently in the ensign.

  40. This is a great post, Elisabeth. You very tactfully remind us that in our society at large, masculinity is largely defined in terms of what we consider transgressions. The closest that any commenter has come to addressing this is Kaimi’s oblique reference to gambling, and this fascinates me.

    Allow me to be blunt: If one is both in and of the world, and if one is a rather masculine sort, then he will find that following things are true:

    He can “hold his liquor” (this includes beer)–if he can’t then he’s a lightweight.
    Though he needn’t be a connoisseur, he knows something about alcohol. Something like the difference between scotch, single malt scotch, bourbon, rye, etc. And it won’t hurt for him to know how to mix a few good drinks. Knowledge of wines is a plus
    He’s expected to make crude jokes about male and female biology when he’s among friends and he’s not in mixed company. Moments ago, I heard the following exchange within earshot: “But the 60 gig iPod is only about 4 millimeters thicker than the 30 gig iPod.” Response: “Sometimes 4 millimeters can make all the difference. Ask your girlfriend.”
    He has friends who enjoy (so to speak) the company of women and are less than discrete about their activities
    He never gossips, and he’s is always discreet (though he enjoys getting the occasional earful from his friends who enjoy [so to speak] the company of women, especially when it involves someone else he knows)
    Whether or not he enjoys (so to speak) the company of women, he has a long and varied history with them (about which he never brags), and he is able to hold his own socially with them. This includes playing the game to a point further than is deemed appropriate by Mormon standards (and this does not include the typical Mormon style of flirtation that sounds more like pubescent telephone banter than a real exchange between people of opposite sexes).
    He has a good career and he achieves success in it.
    He maintains an admirable degree of emotional detachment. He’s generally unflappable, and he takes both victory and defeat with aplomb
    He uses his superior strength to protect people who are less strong
    He needn’t always dress nicely, but he has a sure knowledge of how to be the best looking guy in a crowd when the need arises.
    He may not be a big cigar smoker, but he knows the difference between a Cuban, a Dominican, and a Honduran (and–GASP!–a Mexican), and know which brands are good for which time of day.

    I could go on and on, but I think that you get the idea.

    A few of these characteristics are consistent with Mormonism. There’s no doctrinal reason why Mormon men can’t take defeat and victory with aplomb. It just so happens that they’re notoriously poor sports (as noted above). And Mormonism actually discourages gossip, but Mormon men tend to be terrible gossips anyway.

    The other characteristics involve more or less serious moral transgressions. It’s not that men stake their manliness on these–it’s just the way manliness is defined. George Bailey (from Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life) is simply not as manly as James Bond. And the average Mormon man is significantly less manly than George Bailey (who drank, smoked, and had multiple love interests).

    So my answer is “Yes. Mormon men are mostly sissies.” I say this simply as an observation, and I’ll leave aside any question about whether it’s worthwhile to pursue manliness. I don’t think that many Mormon men will take me seriously here, because they are also blissfully delusional about their sissiness (don’t take my word for it–read the comments!), and it will take more than a long comment from me to disabuse them.

  41. That’s what I’ve been missing while DKL’s been away. Hilarious.

    I always thought James Bond was a jackass. I guess I don’t like manly men.

    George Bailey, though . . . what a stud.

  42. DKL: “I don’t think that many Mormon men will take me seriously here, because they are also blissfully delusional about their sissiness (don’t take my word for it–-read the comments!)”

    I, for one, think an embrace of sissiness and milquetoastery is, for the most part, a good thing. George Bailey is my kind of guy. And Fred Rogers too

  43. As I see it D&C 121:41-42 contains the attributes of “real men” i.e. those who honor their priesthood. Those attributes are really the opposite of what the world considers a “real man” to be, “real mormon men” are supposed to have attributes of persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned, kindness, and pure knowledge. All of these are increasingly the characeristics of sissies based upon the stereotypes in popular culture, and I think there is a growing gap. I think as time goes on real mormon men are going to be increasingly peculiar in this world of ours.

    On the other hand, I think many mormon men prefer the worldly model. I don’t know many mormon men who I think really embody the attributes of Section 121 — especially the long-suffering part.

    By the way, the increasingly likely presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney may be an interesting thing to watch. I think he demonstrates many of the attributes Elisabeth describes — how will that play in America? Interesting article here.

  44. a random John says:


    The bloggernacle’s favorite female impersonator is the obvious choice to expound on the subject of manliness, don’t you think?

  45. David,

    You’re on to something, of course, though you’re being overly pessimistic for effect. Mormons can, after all, pick up more of your manliness skills without transgression: protecting the weak; dressing well (unless you’re Matt Evans); good career; friends who “enjoy the company of women.” We might be constrained from completely emulating the stereotypical GQ man, but we _can_ fake it better than you suggest. (Besides, a Mormon can always be a cowboy, and cowboys are _always_ manly.)

    And it is permitted to pick up other manliness attributes: Mormon men can learn the difference between eight-ball* and nine-ball, and learn to play both without embarrassment; we can obtain a working knowledge of Blackjack and some of the major varieties of poker; and so on. We can even learn a bit about cigars, as long as we’re not smoking them.

    Hell, if we really get bored, we can always blog under female identities.

    *The game, that is.

  46. There’s the outdoorsy water sports Abercrombie&Fitch-wearing lacross-playing mountain-climbing-rapelling LDS preppy-guy thing I’ve observed in some places. I might be putting too many descriptors into the sentence … but perhaps someone out there knows what I’m talking about. There is some room LDS culture for the elite sportsman/jock manly man or even the executive/businessman manly-man — for those who can pull it off.

  47. Damn — beaten to the punch by arJ. I swear that his comment wasn’t there when I hit “post.” (This is why I should never bother to check my comments for typos or whatever).

  48. Only sissies post on blogs. Seriously.

  49. a random John says:


    I beat you by a good ten minutes. Is slow typing a manly attribute?

  50. arJ,

    Yeah, but I took a break in the middle of typing my comment so that I could go smoke [s]ome cigars, drink some single malt scotch, and make crude jokes with my friends while hitting on women.

  51. a random John says:

    I bet you beat up Chuck Norris while you were at it, right?

  52. Danithew, add ski buff that description fits my high school friends pretty well. They were all also upper middle class (I wasn’t, though, so that description doesn’t fit me). Which brings me to something I noticed about DKL’s description: many of those characteristics are exclusive to people of means, people with leisure time and leisure money. The lower middle class or poor working man doesn’t care about dressing nicely and doesn’t have enough time or money to devote to attaining the status symbols associated with James Bond manliness. Other characteristics DKL notes, like enjoying (so to speak) the company of ladies and fraternizing around some kind of alcohol seem to be universal.

    Likewise, I think different things are expected of men from different social classes regarding Church service. For example, I think there is a greater expectation for upper middle class men to serve in Church leadership positions than for poor men, especially in wards where there is a mix of (relatively) well-off and poor people.

  53. Mormon men are forbidden to participate in the quintessential male bonding activity of drinking. Ideally, Mormon men sleep with only one woman their entire lives.

    Not to mention, even Mormon litigators ought not to swear.

    It can be isolating if you are in a corporate culture where the “guys” all bond by going out drinking together.

  54. Elizabeth: who do you think the prototypical male is in American culture today (if you had to choose)? I’m curious.

    I think it is largely a matter of tastes. This might be asking what the prototypical ice cream flavor in America — for some is is vanilla, others stawberry, others rocky road, etc. None of those is necessarliy more “ice creamish” than the others. But there are certain characteristics that must be included to make good ice cream.

    So with the prototypical male in America there are usually some basic characteristics: Intelligence, strength, charisma, charm, determination, wealth (or at least wealth earning capacity) that others admire. Any one of these characteristics helps and all of them together are even better in the eyes most people. Our movies and pop culture are filled with images of males that exhibit some or all of these type of qualities and many or most Mormon men are not at all in some or all of these things.

    But we Mormons (and lots of other religious people too) throw in additional criteria like kindness, trustworthiness, faith, compassion, mercy, magnanimity, etc. as important or even necessary Mormon flavors.

    DKL described one flavor of man (sort of the James Bond version apparently) but there are lots of other models of manliness in America too — the cowboy model, the blue collar model, the athlete model, the white collar model, the entrepreneurial model, etc. So as with ice cream, many of the versions of American manliness include ingredients not found in the Mormon recipe, but none of those are foundational — they are simply a different flavors.

  55. Make that: “many or most Mormon men are not at all lacking in some or all of these things.”

  56. Jeff, er, Geoff – good points. So it sounds to me that you (and most of the commenters here) are saying Mormon men are no more or less likely than non-Mormon men to be perceived as un-masculine.

    DKL’s comment is interesting. I wonder what the effect of Mormon men not knowing how to properly ask for, say, the appropriate brand of whiskey in social situations is. For example, I’m not sure I’d be able to hold my own if I went out to dinner with Carrie and Samantha while they traded stories about buying their $750 Jimmy Choos and their latest sexual conquests, but I think I’d probably have a pretty good time with them anyway.

    Porter – I’m also very curious to see how the public perceives Mitt Romney as a viable (and masculine!) political candidate as well. Romney is a wonderful example of someone who has risen to the top of his (very male dominated) profession while remaining true to Mormon beliefs and practices.

    Tom – thanks for your comments. You always have something interesting to add to the conversation.

    Danithew – what? Abercrombie and Fitch? Have you SEEN their catalogue? (LOL)

  57. It seems to me that it’s just the opposite. It’s gentile culture that is being emasculated. Anything that’s smacks of being male is immediately pounced on as being chauvenistic. “Stop trying to be so male! Go play some video games or something.”

    The Priesthood organization of the LDS church is one of the last few holdouts of unapologetic male power (I mean that in a good way).

    While MTV gentiles’ idea of getting “world exposure” is a night of getting drunk in Tijuana, we send our boys out on two-year missions.

    Who are the real men here?

  58. Sultan of Squirrels says:

    Stop trying to be so male! Go play some video games or something.

    I’ll have you know video games are VERY manly!!!

  59. I find it interesting that I said, “‘…Mormon men are mostly sissies.’ I say this simply as an observation, and I’ll leave aside any question about whether it’s worthwhile to pursue manliness” (emphasis added).

    In response, only a handful of people came forward and said that manliness is not worth pursuing. Each of them seemed to be expressing disagreement with me, indicating that they’d misread my comment entirely (no surprise; this happens quite often). The rest of the responses were mostly given over to staking out alternative expressions of manliness that were more compatible with Mormonism. There seems to be some underlying feeling that if we dispense with worldly notions of manliness altogether, then we’ve thrown the baby out with the bath water. To me, this hints at the some revealing answers to Elisabeth’s questions. Specifically, I’d guess that Mormon men are frustrated by the constraints imposed on them by the Church vis-a-vis the worldly notion of manliness, hence their reluctance to jettison it. Moreover, they balance their priorities by making minor modifications to the worldly notion of manliness to suit the needs of their self image.

    But I wonder what the notion of manliness offers in the first place. We seem to be comfortable jettisoning the notion of coolness when we are teaching our kids to choose the right. For example, if it comes down to choosing between smoking and being cool or not smoking and not being cool, we choose not being cool.

    Far from being anti-social or filthy, smoking has been a tradition in western society for more than 400 years. It symbolizes leisure, relaxation, fortitude, success, amorousness, nonchalance, and (more recently) defiance. Americans have been naturally inclined to think that smoking is glamorous and cool quite simply because it is glamorous and cool. Shakespeare’s contemporaries wrote poems about it. Sir Walter Raleigh smoked. Errol Flynn smoked. Clark Gable smoked. Spencer Tracy smoked. John Wayne smoked. James Dean smoked. Gary Cooper smoked. Steve McQueen smoked. Franklin Roosevelt smoked. Ronald Reagan did a cigarette ad for Chesterfield. Who can picture Frank Sinatra or Humphrey Bogart without a cigarette? Harrison Ford smokes in “American Graffiti.” Paul Newman smokes in “Cool Hand Luke.” Clint Eastwood smokes in “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” Bruce Willis smokes in “Die Hard.” Mel Gibson smokes in “Lethal Weapon.” James Bond smoked in the original movies and novels. Even James Stewart smokes in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Note well: Tobacco companies don’t pay for characters to smoke in movies; they pay to have their brand of cigarette associated with characters who already smoke. Neo-puritans would have us believe that smoking has resonated with westerners for more than 400 years because of the tobacco industry’s shrewd marketing. The brutal truth is that smoking is cool, and it just isn’t that important to be cool.

    So why is manliness so important?

  60. David,

    Good question, and a nice attempt to remain neutral, at least facially. I do think that we have some imperative to develop masculinity (whatever that is). I’m not quite sure of all the ways that church and secular ideas interact here. However, here’s one possibility. I’m not sure I believe it; but it seems likely to offend almost everyone at some level, so perhaps there’s something to it:

    Manliness is important because it is what distinguishes men from women; and men are fundamentally and eternally different from women. Because we should be interested in policing the dividing line between male and female traits, we should be interested in maintaining some definition of manliness. Both the church (recall the scripture “be men!”) and society at large seem to have some interest in policing this line by enforcing mores and norms.

    Paradoxically, while both groups urge masculinity, the church’s definition of masculinity contradicts the world’s definition. The result can be confusing to the male Mormon psyche. On the one hand, Mormon men are told “men are funamentally different from women.” This concept, in many ways, is similar to the cultural idea of masculinity. That is, if there is a feminization/ neutering/emasculation movement afoot, then it is something to which both Gordon B. Hinckley and Tyler Durden are opposed.

    On the other hand, culture at large draws the line in a radically different place than the church. Culture tells men to affirm their masculinity through sports, alcohol, tobacco, sex, and general rugged Marlboro-man-ness. The church, meanwhile, encourages men to affirm their masculinity through family time. The messages are identical on one level, and widely divergent on another.

    Clint Eastwood: Be a man! Smoke a cigarette!
    Gordon B. Hinckley: Be a man! Rock a baby!

    This leaves Mormon men confused. We want to be men; we are told to be men. Yet many of the details of the church’s plan for becoming men look, through a worldly lens, like moves away from masculinity, rather than towards masculinity.

  61. I’m not so sure it is that easy, Kaimi. It would seem, like our female counterparts, gender expectations for men have drastically changed in the Church durring the last 150 years. Has there been a comparable change outside the Church? Not so much, I think.

    As you state it:

    Gordon B. Hinckley: Be a man! Rock a baby!

    Now fill in the blank:

    Brigham Young: ________________

    What does this change tell us about masculinity in the Church?

  62. Re the Gordon Gecko types –

    I don’t think it automatically follows that the Gordon Gecko types become the bishops, stake presidents, and mission presidents. I think that it’s because these men have the “other” qualifications needed to become bishops, et al, that they succeed at their careers. I think that diligent Church experience makes a man more successful in his career, not the other way around.

    Re # 16 –

    “Socially in” wards, by the time they are identified as such, as in trouble.

    Re #18 –

    When it comes to not fitting in by not drinking, I have always adopted a sneer veneer of “you guys have to drink to fit in?” and try to turn the tables that way, that artificial mood enhancers as a way to build male bonding is lame. In a couple of cases, I’ve had coworkers agree that it’s a lame way to fit in. Confidence is sexy, don’t you think?

  63. Confidence is sexy, don’t you think?

    Ummm, sure dude… you’re sexy… (Oh, you weren’t talkin’ to me? Sorry bro..)

    DKL: So why is manliness so important?

    It may or may not be. Since it has not been defined in this thread in a way we all agree it is hard to say.

    A simple answer could be that the very purpose of life for every man on earth is to become more like The Man (Man of Holiness that is.)

  64. I just want to drop in to say DKL is a big sissy.

  65. Well, maybe not a big sissy, but basically half the man I am.

  66. No, seriously, DKL raise a valid point. Whatever the definition of manliness is, real men do not spend a lot of time wondering if they fit the bill. Real men know they do. DKL, or society at large, or anyone else can call Mormon men sissies all they want, but if you’re confident you’re manly and masculine it shouldn’t faze you.

  67. a random John says:

    I demand a poll! Chuck Norris vs Porter Rockwell for the manly crown!

  68. Here’s what it takes to be Chuck Norris.

  69. Sultan of Squirrels says:

    what about Hal from malcolm in the middle. he should be included in the poll

  70. Elisabeth (#34): I think the outside the Church vs. inside the Church definition is a good question. Does being a Mormon man make it more difficult to bond with non-Mormon men? Are there other barriers besides the Word of Wisdom?

    I can say from the other side that it does increase the difficulty. However, I would say that it decreases with age–I would imagine that a married Mormon man and an married non-Mormon man would get along better than their single counterparts.

    From a non-Mormon perspective, I don’t think the “action” itself is that big of a deal. With drinking, for example–it doesn’t bother me to hang out with non-drinkers (whether Mormon or not)–it’s a personal choice after all (and it’s always good to have a DD around). The issue I have is that many Mormons are highly judgmental and self-righteous (perhaps rightfully so) about choices like drinking. No one likes being around people with a holier-than-thou attitude. It’s especially annoying coming from those that don’t have that personal experience (i.e. I think Kaimi misses the mark in comment #25)

  71. I spent the first part of my life on a semi-isolated farm in northeastern Idaho steeped in a family culture that emphasized individualism, physical labor and self-reliance. I was proud when I took over milking the cow from my oldest brother at age seven, when my father taught me to drive a tractor at age eight, that I was old enough to attend to an irrigation night set at age ten. When we moved to Provo I suddenly had many fewer responsibilities–no cows to milk, no pigs, chickens or cattle to feed, no irrigation to tend to, no harvest to bring in etc. The school ground culture was radically different–in Idaho one of my best friends chewed tobacco in third grade. In Utah children were reported for using the word “jerk.” [Kind of reminds me of T&S].

    I got on well enough, but as I grew older I found the round corners and well-padded obstacles of suburban/urban life frustrating. Second, third and fourth chances were so abundant that true failure was almost impossible. Many here have mentioned a mission as a rite of passage into manhood and I agree that it serves as a cultural marker after which a boy is expected to take on the work and familial responsibilities typically associated with manhood. I loved the mission experience of a new culture, a new language, new friends and no family. I grew and matured–but I could never pretend that there wasn’t a net firmly in place to catch me should I fall. My apartment was paid for, money provided, health looked out for, morals carefully guarded and purpose defined.

    When I returned home, like most people I knew I was expected to pay my way forward and I gladly did so. It was rewarding in one sense but lacking in another. Now in my early twenties, having lived in an Eastern Block country where survival could be a week to week proposition, I found the utter safety of American society suffocating. There was no trick to finding a job that paid enough to cover an apartment, food and tuition. It is impossible for American’s not to subsist.

    When I was 23 I traveled through the Eastern Block. I started in Ukraine where I had served my mission and then set off on my own to visit places where I had no contacts. I had no idea where I would sleep, who I would meet or what I would do and I had very little money to see me through the two-and-a-half months I expected to travel. The experience was life changing. There was no safety net–I had to look after myself and if I disappeared in my travels no one would knew where to begin to look. I slept on beaches and park benches, wandered aimlessly through Soviet industrial towns and against the advice of friends traveled through war-torn Georgia where ethnic tensions still simmered. I loved relying on myself to meet people, find food, a place to sleep and determine the day’s agenda. Very soon after setting out on my own I felt a sense of ownership over my person take hold in a new way. I had proved to myself that I could handle everything I needed to handle should a net be absent–that I would be OK. I don’t know if it is common to be able to pinpoint a period when you became a man, but I can. 23 seems late to me, but I never had the opportunity before then.

    I disagree that manhood has much to do with single malt liquor, sleeping with multiple women or dirty jokes. To me a significant portion of DKL’s description and its subsequent interpretations sounds more like the extended adolescence of frat life than manhood–although I agree that drinking can be an important bonding experience among men. A rought definition of manhood, in my opinion, is knowingly possessing the ability to effectively handle whatever life throws at you and the people you love. How a person comes to that knowledge will vary–for me it had little to do with Mormonism.

  72. Pris – it’s tricky. How do you explain why you’re not drinking when people ask? Because of your religion? People just don’t accept that answer these days – especially from guys. I think that people may then assume that the non-drinker is sitting in judgment of all those who are drinking -which may or may not be the case. I think the Mormons who are rude and judgmental about things like drinking may be trying to make themselves feel better about appearing like a religious fanatic.

    Mathew- thanks for your comment. I think you’re absolutely right. I also think that Mormons (male and female) are very much sheltered by the Church (on their missions, at BYU, living in Utah, through family heritage, etc.), and they never are able to have the kind of life-changing, character building experiences you had. You have to know first who you are and what to expect from yourself, independent of social and religious expectations for men (or women).

  73. I took a sociology class last year and one of our topics was how men are being emasculated. The author of the assigned reading said that men are turning more to the habits of sports, drinking, and so forth to prove their masculinity because the feminist movement ‘took away’ the other, more positive masculine traits like providing for a family, social power & leadership. Mormon men are still encouraged to provide for their families, and preside and all that other stuff. Perhaps Mormon men feel less of a need to prove their masculinity the way that worldly men do because we as members still hold on to the pre-feminist movement way of running things?

    Did anyone else find it interesting that when “The Stepford Wives” was originally released it was supposed to be a chilling commentary on a violent reaction to feminism, but when it was recently remade it was supposed to be a comedy about how men feel overshadowed by their high power wives?

    And an obligatory Douglas Adams Quote: “When men were real men, and women were real women, and small furry creatures from alpha centauri were real small furry creatures from alpha centauri.”

  74. Why so much reference to drinking? Just wondering. Its never even crossed my mind that in order to be man requires drinking.

  75. “I was wondering what you made of Pres Monsons Pheasant hunting trips that he has referenced recently in the ensign.”

    I think of the following quotes (just a portion of many I have collected on the subject)

    I never could see why a man should be imbued with a blood-thirsty desire to kill and destroy animal life. I have known men–and they still exist among us–who enjoy what is, to them, the “sport” of hunting…I do not believe any man should kill animals or birds unless he needs them for food… I think it is wicked for men to thirst in their souls to kill almost everything which possesses animal life. It is wrong…
    Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol.4, p.48

    Killing for sport is wrong…One day, to while away the slowly passing hours, I took my gun with the intention of indulging in a little amusement in hunting turkeys… From boyhood I had been particularly, and I may say strangely, attached to a gun. Hunting in the forests of Ohio was a pastime that to me possessed the most fascinating attractions. It never occurred to my mind that it was wrong-that indulging in “what was sport to me was death to them;” that in shooting turkeys, squirrels, etc., I was taking life that I could not give; therefore I indulged in the murderous sport without the least compunction of conscience.
    Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, p.188-189

    We should by every means in our power impress upon the rising generation the value of life and how dreadful a sin it is to take life. The lives of animals even should be held far more sacred than they are. Young people should be taught to be very merciful to the brute creation and not to take life wantonly or for sport. The practice of hunting and killing game merely for sport should be frowned upon and not encouraged among us. God has created the fowls and the beasts for man’s convenience and comfort and for his consumption at proper times and under proper circumstances; but he does not justify men in wantonly killing those creatures which He has made and with which He has supplied the earth.
    Gospel Truth, Vol. 1, p.30

    As recently as 1978, President Spencer W. Kimball pleaded with the Latter-day Saints in a worldwide conference to avoid killing animals merely for pleasure,

    “We crossed the Embarras river and encamped on a small branch of the same about one mile west. In pitching my tent we found three massasaugas or prairie rattlesnakes, which the brethren were about to kill, but I said, ‘Let them alone—don’t hurt them! How will the serpent ever lose his venom, while the servants of God possess the same disposition and continue to make war upon it? Men must become harmless, before the brute creation; and when men lose their vicious dispositions and cease to destroy the animal race, the lion and the lamb can dwell together, and the sucking child can play with the serpent in safety.’ The brethren took the serpents carefully on sticks and carried them across the creek. I exhorted the brethren not to kill a serpent, bird, or an animal of any kind during our journey unless it became necessary in order to preserve ourselves from hunger.”
    ~History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2:71-72

  76. Ryan,

    I know the quotes and as a hunter actually agree that you should not kill strictly for pleasure. I always eat what I shoot. I actually stopped hunting deer when my wife started to refuse to cook and eat it cause of the flavor. I moved on to Wild Pigs which are very tasty.

    But respond to the fact that Pres Monson hunts as does L Tom Perry. (deer) He told my mission president that he enjoyed Deer hunting. These men are aware of the quotes and still hunt.

    Also Joseph Smith himself took his sons duck hunting.

  77. I do not believe that eating the animal afterwards magically changes sport-hunting to an ethical activity.
    I contend that the desire to hunt is, as President Smith states “a blood-thirsty desire to kill and destroy animal life.” He further stated in an old issue of the Era magazine that no worthy priesthood holder should have a thirst for blood. Furthermore I suspect that if every sport-hunter were given a truth serum and asked why they hunt, the response would something about the thrill of the kill. (If this were not so, why wouldn’t people just go hunting with rubber pellets that, at the worst, sting the animal but let it escape otherwise unscathed. Even moreso with trapping, where’s the thrill of the hunt there? So you set up a trap with bait and some animal with 1% of your intelligence stumbled into it looking for food. Wow. Real impressive.)
    Now, I don’t contend that anyone should become a vegetarian, because when I go to the grocery store, I don’t pause to enjoy visions of the death of my package of ground beef.
    Nor do I accept any “they don’t feel pain because I always shoot them through the head on my first shot” type of comments.
    As to this thread in general, it seems to me that men are typically the ones doing the hunting, with exceptions few and far between. What does this say about masculinity and Mormon men (since arguably American Mormons make up a significant portion of the national sport hunting environment)

  78. This may open up another can of worms… but here goes:

    But respond to the fact that Pres Monson hunts as does L Tom Perry. (deer) He told my mission president that he enjoyed Deer hunting. These men are aware of the quotes and still hunt.

    I’ll make my point by changing The word “Pres.” to Thomas. I do not believe that Thomas Monson is acting in his official capacity as a GA and as such I will let my comments regarding the righteousness of hunting apply to him as well.

  79. Nice,

    I will let Pres Monson know that you are applying one of your personal gospel hobbies to him in his personal life.

    Guess he should repent eh?

  80. Should I take your comments to mean that you wholly discount the quotes I gave above as a personal hobby of mine?
    I intentionally used the words of the prophets to back up my comments specifically so that I would not be accused of foisting my personal opinions upon others.
    So, let me try again by requesting a response to the claim that any type of hunting when you have the means to obtain food in a much simpler manner is nothing more than a thirst for blood? A sport.

  81. nah,

    I think the quotes are valid.

    Here is how I think they apply.

    Wanton destruction of wildlife. IE. Hunting strictly for sport. No eating of the killed game etc. A good example of this is trophy hunting in Africa.

    Or hunting game animals and leaving them to rot in the fields.

    That is what I think the quotes mean. I fully support that sentiment.

    There is a lot more to hunting than just killing. I recently went hunting with guys from my ward and we only shot one small white childs ball that had been thrown up in the air. We still had a good time though.

    End Threadjack.

  82. Captain Moroni was no sissy. If the Mormon man emulates him, there is no need to worry about it. ‘Nuff said.

  83. I think that hunting can simply be an honest acknowlegement that we live in a fallen world and each and every one of us has blood on his hands.

    Maybe it is simply a realistic response to mortal life.

  84. Since Kaimi and Mathew have responded with some amount of candor, I guess it’s my turn. Kaimi noted that my list is actually rather more balanced than my rhetoric would imply (he’s the only one who seems to have noticed this). Mathew seems to have placed substantially more emphasis on what I’ve labelled emotional detachment and taking victory and defeat with aplomb. It also seems that for some time, he was able to rely upon the kindness of strangers (rather than a safety net). I think this gives him some knowledge-of-the-world that I failed to capture when I describe the sorts of cultural knowledge that might characterize someone who finds that he’s a masculine sort.

    For my part, I have very mixed feelings. On the one hand, I am pleased that the planner of my work’s holiday party (who barely knows me) was told by several people that I was the one to ask about what liquors should be available at the open bar. On the other hand, I can recite from memory several scriptures about the role of contrition in repentance. Along the same lines, I am happy that nearly everyone thought that my “4 millimeter” comment was funny, but I’m also aware that this kind of humor is rather too close to light mindedness and loud laughter.

    I don’t think that these are serious sins, but I do suppose that they make me somewhat less valiant than I should be. I may find myself in the terrestial kingdom as a consequence. Therefore, there is some sense in which Mormonism makes an unwelcome intrusion upon my sense of self (as a man). But it’s neither a constraint nor a frustration; it’s merely something that I’m aware of.

    So, if I were more perfect, would I be ashamed to have people know me partly as an inexaustible source of information about alcoholic beverages of all kinds? Does it demonstrate a lack of faith when I take pleasure in it?

    I don’t have a good answer to this question. Moreover, I don’t attach much importance to the it. I am a poor failing sinner, and I’ve just got too many other big-ticket items on my salvation plate to attack the manliness issue with any vigor. At this point, I’m inclined to say that I know what manliness is, I know where I stand in relation to it, and I know that I don’t think it matters much. Is this just an excuse? Should I accord it higher priority?

  85. To avoid being a hunter and killer of threads, I have posted this topic at the forum below.

    I apologize if I have taken too much attention from the original post and conversation.

  86. I think it’s worse than that, David, at least for me. It’s not just the usual pride and manliness that kicks in. Some of your list elements also connect well with my own desire to be perceived as a Mormon badass (which I discussed way up in #7).

    So, is it wrong to take pride in being the person planning the drinks? I suppose it is, on some level. And yet I should be the absolute _last_ person to condemn you for that particular failing — because for the past two months I’ve been planning an upcoming academic conference, and it gave me a good deal of perverse pride when I was the one who first suggested the wine and cheese reception. (I was even more tickled when the committee members later asked me if I thought it would be a good idea to have beer at the reception. I guess I really _am_ the alcohol planner for the conference! My answer: It depends on the beer — you clearly can’t have lame domestic couch-potato stuff sitting next to your wine and cheese, but there’s no reason not to have some classy bottled imports.)

    As I think back on my reaction and compare it to your thoughts, I’m unsure how much of my own reaction I should attribute to your listed masculinity ideals. Perhaps at some level I was responding to the whole cultural manliness aspect of the discussion — “they’re asking me what type of alcohol should be there, so they must think I’m a man.” However, I think that my reaction derived mostly from amusement that the resident Mormon was planning what types of alcohol to serve, and cracking jokes about the beer that I clearly won’t be able to follow up on (“Of course we’ll have to sample a few bottles to make sure it’s still good. You never know how long these things have been on the shelf.”)

    You write:

    I’ve just got too many other big-ticket items on my salvation plate . . . I know what manliness is, I know where I stand in relation to it, and I know that I don’t think it matters much.

    Well, yes and no. I agree with that statement in general — heaven knows I’ve got much more important things to worry about. But I do think the topic is worth discussing. At least for me, some of these issues — for example, my own highly conflicted and inconsistent stance of wanting to be perceived as a rebel, but not actually do anything bad enough to keep me out of Heaven — create a fair degree of background noise.

    It’s not a major issue — not nearly as important as other things I have to worry about — but the fact that my own desires in this area aren’t at all internally consistent creates a low-degree, thorn-in-the-side kind of discomfort. I don’t know that it will make me do anything crazy, but it’s there. And it sometimes flares up and leads to impulses and actions that are almost certainly not righteous. (For example, it was only a last-minute change of plans that kept us from bringing a bottle of wine to the family Thanksgiving party held at the home of Mardell’s ultra-uptight Mormon relatives, just to watch their reaction.)

    Brian writes:

    Whatever the definition of manliness is, real men do not spend a lot of time wondering if they fit the bill.

    Dude, I cannot tell you how happy I am that you say this after I’ve posted ten comments to this thread.

    J. Stapley:

    Good point on Brigham Young. I suppose Brigham Young, circa 1870, would urge the manly man to farm the land, chop trees, all that jazz. But what would Brigham Young say in 2005? The land is farmed and the trees are chopped. Would Brigham want our manly man to still carry an axe around like Gimli? Or would he want our manly man to know how to code a blog and manage his 401(k)? In other words, how much of the change is attributable to changed environments, rather than changed ideas of masculinity? I’m not sure; I do agree that it’s unlikely that Brigham would say “rock a baby” in any instance.


    I’m sorry if I came across rudely; I’m honestly not trying to be Mr. Judgmental Mormon. (It’s an occupational hazard, I know). I think, on the one hand, it’s easy for Mormons to fall into that habit, and I’m probably as bad as anyone else.

    On the other hand, I think it is possible for Mormons to connect with non-Mormons, and I don’t know that our lack of alcohol is a true barrier. And I’m not saying this from a Mormon ivory tower. I’ve sat and played poker with my friends as they drank beer and smoked cigars (friend’s reaction — “great! more beer for me!”); I’ve gone out for drinks with my friends and sipped on my own coca-cola while they ordered their drinks. Sure, I probably missed out on some part of the experience, but I don’t think that it was completely lame in any way because I wasn’t actually drinking alcohol.

    (Sheesh, this comment is a monster. I’m supposed to be grading exams right now, and grading exams really sucks. Can you tell?)

  87. Real men don’t care what others think of them.

    Real men don’t sit around and talk (or type) about what a real man does or doesn’t do.

  88. My sometimes disinterest and sometimes contempt for alcohol when I’m surrounded by heavy drinkers (you wouldn’t think it, but biology grad students are party animals) makes me feel like more of a badass than if I let them think I thought it was cool. An individualistic, kiss-my-butt-if-you-don’t-like-it attitude is more manly to me than conforming to what other people see as symbols of manly status. I also feel proud when I decline to join my friends for poker or for any of the other numerous social activities that go on because I need to be home with my family.

    Before anyone gets upset and calls me self-righteous I should mention that I know that my attitude doesn’t reflect any special virtue in my character. If any part of my motivation is manly posturing, I can’t make that claim. Besides, it’s not that my habits and priorities are more in line with what Gospel standards than my friends that makes me feel proud. It’s my individualism. It makes me want to grunt (not really). I feel the same way in instances where Gospel standards don’t come into play. For example, I like being the only student in my department vocally opposed to affirmative action.

    It doesn’t bother me in the least that I don’t care about power tools, fixing cars (a big deal in my family), or hunting. I also don’t feel like less of a man because, even though I’m 6’4″, 250, I’m afraid to play pick-up basketball at the inner city YMCA that I frequent (there’s lots of big guys there and they play way too aggressively for me).

    The only thing about myself that makes me feel less manly than I would like is that in conversations I’m sometimes too willing to tell people what they want to hear rather than be candid and frank. I’m glad that this characteristic makes my interactions with others pleasant, but there are times when uncomfortable things really need to be said. More often than not I leave them unsaid.

    As for Elisabeth’s question about whether different standards between the church and the world affect our ability to bond with people outside the church, I would say the biggest barrier is the expectation for a Mormon man to spend most of his free time with his family. You just don’t have time to make strong friendships that go beyond workplace interaction. The fact that I don’t drink hasn’t stopped me from making friends to the extent that my family responsibilities allow. I’ve found other things to build friendships around, like fantasy football and sports talk in general, common interests in politics, science, religion, music, movies, etc.

  89. Kaimi, at least you’re not taking them!

  90. Uh, that was really me, but I don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for law professors right now. . .

  91. And it makes me feel manly that I don’t care what anon (#88) says. I’ll sit around and type about what a man does and doesn’t do if I want to.

  92. Don’t worry about the loud laughter, DKL. All it got here was a wry smile.

  93. Kaimi, I agree that the topic is worth discussing. All these people who care enough to proclaim how much they don’t care to talk about manliness miss the point that we understand manliness exactly because people talk about it, write stories about it, and so forth. But I do not, for example, make any calculated effort to be manly or not to be manly, to be a badass or not to be a badass. In fact, once figures of authority get used to the idea that I’m just indifferent to them (as opposed to hostile), I often get on just fine.

    It strikes me that there’s something odd about the way that men approach the boundaries of propriety with regard to Mormon standards. Ever the glad-handing frat boy, I do tend to have a tin ear for traditionally Mormon sensibilities. So many things just seem like they’re not a big deal. I find that blending in with Mormons is largely an exercise in keeping my mouth shut, and I’m sure you can imagine how well that works.

    Elisabeth brings up something interesting when she says, “Mormon men sleep with only one woman their entire lives. A completely unrealistic expectation in American culture today.” If we look at Biblical accounts, is Joseph of Egypt more manly than Sampson or King David? Probably. But he’s also probably a lot less interesting. From our side of the morality line, it’s easy to lampoon men who suffer moral lapses by saying (to use your words) that they’re “letting themselves be led around by their penises.” But (as Sampson and King David demonstrate) the struggle to contain a strong libido is a difficult one, and sometimes the propensity to slip up is best characterized as a character flaw of tragic proportions.

    One tip on the beer, Kaimi: Stay away from imports. Europeans think less of American taste in beer than they do American foreign policy, and they reserve only their worst stuff to send over here. If you want to play it safe, go with Sam Adams Ale (or Lager, if that’s their taste) and Anchor Steam. If you want to go with something a little less conventional, try something from Pyramid (if I recall, they’ve got a killer heffewiesen) or RedHook (which makes a perfectly respectable amber ale [called ESB] and a very good IPA).

  94. I don’t cry.

    One of my favorite posts Ryan! I have nothing against men who cry (it has become much more acceptable in society), but I think while society has indeed associated masculinity with certain transgressions (see DKL 40) it has also simultaneously turned away from traditional masculinity in other areas. I think their are various reasons for this, and I won’t attack them. But at the end of the day, I think that there are many traits traditionally viewed as masculine that are good. Being laconic, decisive, fearless, inspiring confidence in friends spouse and family. How about being a breadwinner? In former times that really was shooting bears, but modernity has taken some of the heroic gloss off off it–but is it really less heroic? I think not.

  95. “One tip on the beer, Kaimi: Stay away from imports. Europeans think less of American taste in beer than they do American foreign policy, and they reserve only their worst stuff to send over here. If you want to play it safe, go with Sam Adams Ale (or Lager, if that’s their taste) and Anchor Steam. If you want to go with something a little less conventional, try something from Pyramid (if I recall, they’ve got a killer heffewiesen) or RedHook (which makes a perfectly respectable amber ale [called ESB] and a very good IPA).”

    What a hilarious case of overcompensation for deep insecurity about one’s moral commitments. Pray tell, DKL, whose better in the sack, Frenchwomen or Latinos?

  96. Err, Latinas.

  97. And, Amy, it’s “who’s” (i.e., who is) not “whose”.

    Or are you referring to a particular definite article?

  98. grazie, Elisabeth.

  99. LOL, Amy! I think that’s the answer, too. :)

  100. Kaimi,

    Stop talking about beer with David, and get to work on your exams! Besides what do you know about beer anyway?

  101. -insert beating dead horse comment here, get it? cause it’s a dead animal, and my comment is gonna be about hunting, which has already been beaten to death.-

    If you’re going to eat meat anyways perhaps it’s better to hunt for it. That way the animal gets to spend most of its life in the wild, roaming free, as we can only assume most animals want to do. Granted this only works if the hunted meat is eaten *instead of* store bought meat rather than *in addition to* store bought meat.

  102. David,

    First, thanks for the beer recommendations. It’s not clear whether I’ll be doing final product selections or whether some administrator will be doing that part. But if it’s me, I’ll put your knowledge to good use. If anyone asks where my taste was developed, I’ll be sure to mention that it came from a Mormon blog.

    Second, I agree that Elisabeth’s comments on Mormon male sexual expectations are among the most interesting portions of her post. (And it would be equally or more interesting to discuss Mormon female sexual expectations — which raise all sorts of issues of their own — but that’s a subject for another day). I think that the Mormon view on sex is complicated and self-contradictory; and that in that, it resembles societal attitudes at large.

    After all, abstinence from sex can derive from many things. It can derive from an iron will, or from a lack of social skills. And whatever we think about sex, it’s hard to construct or justify a theory under which the socially clueless individual — who is chaste out of true necessity — should be viewed as morally superior to the average, less than chaste person. So, at the very least, if we admire chastity, we should admire chastity that is consciously selected, and not merely forced upon the individual.

    I don’t have a working-theory-of-everything in this department. However, a few things I’m forced to admit to myself. First, that the “men who don’t have sex are strong” line is not one that I find entirely convincing — there are simply far too many ways to avoid sex without being of particularly string character. (I alluded to this back in #7). Second, that the opposite argument — for simplicity, the “sex is masculinity” argument — is also unconvincing. I’ve simply known too many losers who slept with a lot of women to believe fully in that argument either. (I also suggested this in a prior comment).

    As I said earlier, I think that the conflicted Mormon view has a lot in common with the conflicted view held by society at large. After all, society doesn’t celebrate sex unreservedly either; society has its own conflicts on whether to laud the rake or the steady. Recall _Fast Times at Ridgmont High_. It’s scarcely a preachy movie, and yet it ends on a note of unambiguous celebration for the sexually unconsumated relationship between the hero and the heroine; meanwhile by movie’s end, various other male figures — who casually slept with her — are portrayed as worthless cads.

  103. Amy D: Pray tell, DKL, whose better in the sack, Frenchwomen or Latinos?

    LOL. Evidently you didn’t read the characterizations listed in my comment number 40. I’ll never tell. (At this point, I was tempted to add some joke to the effect of “But Latinas definitely look hotter in temple garments,” but in the end I decided not to. Besides, if I actually come down on one side or the other, I might be taken as a xenophobe or a racist).

    Kaimi, you seem to have sensed that my comments express some ambivalence regarding the question of sexual mores. In the most general sense, I think that a manliness is supposed to entail knowing certain types of things that one very rarely knows except through repeated moral transgression. Regarding women, manly men (if I may use that phrase) are expected to know what women like (so to speak). And even though the general trend is toward women talking more about what they like (so to speak), there is definitely a sense in which it’s preferable for the man to “just know” what they like (so to speak). Since he doesn’t brag and he is quite discreet, the source of this knowledge is either taken for granted or supposed to be a mystery, depending on the audience. Either way, at some point, prior acquaintance is required, necessitating moral transgression except among widowers. I think that expressing it this way is clearer and avoids the question of whether it is manly to resist temptation in such and such a situation.

    I think that you’re analysis of the contradictions is basically correct. I’d go a little bit further. Say one man leads a middle class life, stays faithful to his wife, but he is a lackluster father and husband and never does anything exceptional. Let’s also say that some other man (let’s say he’s a surgeon who might be able to make quite a lot of money) makes great sacrifices to live in a 3rd world country where he helps orphans and widows, visiting them in their affliction, but he has an occasional consensual sexual liaison. I’d think it’s fair to argue that the faithful, unexceptional man is morally inferior to the surgeon who makes the sacrifices, even though the surgeon is guilty of a sin that Spencer W. Kimball considers right up there close to murder. As I understand it, if one argues for this kind of assessment of consensual sex, then one is fundamentally at odds with the Mormon moral outlook.

  104. Why so much reference to drinking? Just wondering. Its never even crossed my mind that in order to be man requires drinking.

    It is because many frat boys who end up running things are big on drinking and part of fitting in is drinking with them.

    If you don’t, you are excluded from an entire realm of social mobility and management and comradeship. So guys think about it, at least if they are not in LDS dominated areas.

    “Home early?” “Yep, they decided to call it a day and hit the sport’s bar down the street, they’ve a nude happy hour going on right now, so I came home.”

    That sort of thing.

    BTW, I remember many years ago listening to a girl complain about “the boys of BYU.” Kaimi had it right, there is something missed by most guys who haven’t lived with a couple girls. A sense of what someone wants and such.

    It is why singles groups used to put the divorced in a different group than those who had not been married. I hadn’t realized it at the time, but that was the je ne sais quoi (darn, I’ll remember my spelling some day) that the girl who was complaining was missing at BYU.

  105. But isn’t the problem of Mormon men not knowing what women want solved by marrying women who have never had sex before (and, presumably, will never know whether her husband is a “bad” lover)?

  106. not on this thread says:

    In the most general sense, I think that a manliness is supposed to entail knowing certain types of things that one very rarely knows except through repeated moral transgression.
    Some of this information can be acquired by a study of female human anatomy. You don’t need contact with lots of different clitorises to know where the clitoris is. A good book will do.

  107. Experience makes someone a man? I doubt it unless all woman are sex machines that get turned on the same way. I doubt that very very very much. I don’t think that experienced people have any advamtage as lovers because I don’t think lovemaking is about technique. It is about listening and communicating and its about sharing and caring in every aspect of married life. The great advantage of the Mormon ideal is that two people learn together how to be lovers by learning how to be husband and wife. The great evil of our age is all the porn that infects men and women with stupid and false expectations. The evil that comes with it is the shame that keeps each of them from talking about and sharing their “real” needs.

    Yes and one more thing. Absolute chastity is a requirement for real manhood because a real man fills the requirements for exaltation in the celestial kingdom with full faith in the atonement of the Savior and a obedience to his commandments.

  108. David,

    I’m with you, at least in part. I think your hypothetical surgeon would indeed have a pretty good claim of moral superiority. And the fact is that through history, many great men have shown this particular weakness. Victor Hugo — seldom does a general conference pass without someone mentioning his name — was well known for his libido. King David (after whom both you and I are ultimately named) had his Abigail and his concubines long before the whole Bath-Sheba incident — and seems to have done so without incurring much divine reproach.

    I think that Mormon beliefs do compel us to admit that, all other things being equal, a life of chastity and fidelity is morally superior. That is, we must believe that the surgeon who does _not_ have affairs is superior to your surgeon who has affairs. But then the balancing game becomes tricky. How much third-world service balances out a fling with the neighbor? Doesn’t this allow certain men to, in effect, “buy” sexual license? (On the other hand, if they can only buy sexual license through being ubermenschs, perhaps we should be encouraging sale! Heaven knows we could use a few more Victor Hugos.)

    And then the $20,000 question: How can we analyze situations where the great accomplishments come _because_ of the affair? For instance, how much Shakespeare can be attributed to the fact that he was unhappy in his marriage and in love with another woman? In the grand scheme, isn’t being _Shakespeare_ better than being yet-another-faithful-Elizabethan? And if we had the opportunity, would we really want to go back in time and fix Shakespeare’s marriage — even if that meant giving up his work?

  109. I don’t see as much gray here as you do. If the surgeon is cheating on his wife, that alone reveals a serious moral deficiency in that for the sake of his own gratification he is willing to hurt those for whom he has the most responsibility. To me, no number of cleft palate operations for strangers offsets that deficiency. If the surgeon is not married, then that’s different, though I don’t know if it’s possible to have multiple liaisons without seriously hurting some feelings.

    In the grand scheme, isn’t being _Shakespeare_ better than being yet-another-faithful-Elizabethan?

    No. Nor is being Einstein better than being a devoted father. In the grand scheme, the world would be a much better place if it was full of faithful husbands and devoted fathers. And we wouldn’t be any worse off with a few dozen fewer plays.

  110. Here is my candidate for Mormon man of the year…..

    David Neeleman. Got it all. The missionary zeal, the success, the family. He is the man….

    Wonder if he cries in testimony meeting?

  111. #107, I agree people should become sexually proficient in committed relationships, but memorizing pictures of a woman’s anatomy to become a good lover is about the same thing as studying pictures of a violin in order to become a concert violinist.

  112. Elisabeth,

    I am totally cracking up at your concert violoist analogy.

    You’re absolutely right that you can’t become a concert violinist by looking at pictures. You have to go study at Julliard in a class of 20 people; then practice eight hours a day for ten years; eventually, you’ll take your violin and go to Carnegie Hall where you’ll demonstrate your skill in front of 10,000 people.

    You’re right — it couldn’t be more like sex! ;)

  113. Elizabeth (#72),

    On the one hand, we wouldn’t have much of a church if it didn’t offer refuge, on the other hand there is a real temptation to hide within it so as to avoid the kinds of experiences that define an individual, but that is true of many social institutions. As you noted, families can have the same effect. The church is, perhaps, unique in this regard in that hiding within its metaphoric walls is often seen as a virtue, but it certainly has no corner on the market.

    When I was thinking of your comment I was reminded of an essay by Tom Plummer that used to be distributed to incoming freshmen at BYU entitled “Diagnosing and Treating the Ophelia Syndrome” which can be found here: Despite a terrible title, the paper, the first part especially, is a great read. Plummer quotes an exchange between Polonius and Ophelia in which Ophelia confesses “I do not know what to think” to which Polonius responds “I’ll teach you. Think yourself a baby.” In the modern world we can think ourselves babies to the grave.

    In my comment above I provided a short biography of my childhood in order to show how manhood had been defined and modeled for me. I think that particular model is fairly common, but I suspect it is increasingly it is difficult to find your way toward it. For those who think it is a bad model, this is a good thing. For someone like me who internalized it as a child, it is a bad thing and requires extra effort to seek it out. (That’s probably true of a lot of things actually. True spirituality, for example, is hard to come by [I don’t have much myself] and there are a lot of appealing substitutes readily available. Deseret Book is a shrine to hollow goodness, purveying schlock as a substitute for spirituality. That’s probably the reason the prophets teach us to develop a personal relationship with deity instead of buying another crystal temple for the mantle.)

    I stated above that we can think ourselves babies to the grave, but I may be wrong about that. It’s still tough to get all the way through life without experiencing the sort of challenges that will move you firmly into the “man” or “woman” category. I guess that’s the great thing about God’s plan–it works despite our best efforts.

    DKL and Kaimi,

    I’m not sure about this, but it seems to me that comparing one man’s failings against anothers is an exercise in futility. I think the standard of judgment will be ourselves–no?

  114. The problem isn’t lack of experience. (Every woman is different). The problem is that men are just afraid to go exploring down there and check out the equipment. And figure out how it works.

    It’s like anything — you’re not born knowing how to drive a car. You can’t just close your eyes and expect to be able to drive. So why do Mormon men expect to be born knowing how to — well, you get the idea.

    After all, a “real man” is one who knows how to keep his woman happy.

  115. “After all, a “real man” is one who knows how to keep his woman happy.”

    To Do list:

    Shave more often than Sunday mornings before church
    Stop by store for chocolate
    Put the toilet seat down

    Ha, being a real man is easier than I thought.

  116. Space Chick says:

    To add another twist to the issue of what it means to be manly: In today’s Air Force, the younger members of the officer and enlisted ranks may whoop it up and party down, but as they begin gaining rank, they’re expected to shed the party mindset and get serious. Eventually men who used to hang out together at the bar begin to spend more time at home with their families. The loners who haven’t managed to create a serious relationship are the ones going out every weekend and getting plastered, and their co-workers begin to wonder if they’ll ever grow up, or even whether they should intervene and provide counselling. It’s not totally accurate, and certainly there are still some “traditions” held over from the past 50 years, but there’s apparently some correlation between responsibility at work and responsibility at home. From what I’ve seen, the other services have a similar maturing effect. My initial suspicion is that guys who serve in the military, and particularly combat-related specialties, may feel that their manliness is a function of what they do at work, more than what they do for recreation. If you’ve been out in the field all day playing with weapons, maybe you don’t need to play with your gun (sts) on your time off.

  117. it’s tricky. How do you explain why you’re not drinking when people ask? Because of your religion? People just don’t accept that answer these days – especially from guys

    I don’t know why we have to “explain” it to anyone. A simple “no thank you” has always worked for me. Then it becomes a you drink – so what, I don’t – so what, issue.

    My mom always cuts the waiter/waitress at Olive Garden off in mid-sentence when they are explaining the wine choice of the day with “We don’t drink alcohol!”. I don’t know why she can’t just wait until they are done, say a polite “no thank you”, and then double up on free bread sticks and salad….man I’m getting hungry.

    If I am ever pressed, and I rarely am, even at business lunches/functions, I usually just say it’s a personal choice. I feel like saying I don’t drink for religious reasons is like saying “If not for my religion I’d be swimming in a keg right now!”. Their is a religious component, but I have accepted the WoW as the word of the Lord, so it has moved beyond simply religious into the realm of personal.

  118. Is it a sign of Mormon maladjustment that one cannot bring up how normal drinking is without people quickly condemning keg parties and bar hopping? Honestly, how many people are going to get plowed at Kaimi’s academic, wine-and-cheese reception?

    On an entirely different note, I’ve tried to strike an altogether disinterested tone throughout this exchange. Frankly, I’ve been avoiding the question of how manly I am, and I think that it’s time I came clean.

    – Nine of the 2,705 songs on my iPod are by Barry Manilow.
    – I appreciate nice wrapping paper, and I’m a perfectionist when it comes to gift wrapping (my wife jokes that it takes me an hour to wrap something).
    – My wife handles all the finances, and gives me a monthly allowance of “mad money” at the start of each month.
    – I iron my own clothing–again, I’m a perfectionist.
    – I kind of melt when chicks cry (really, what do you do?)
    – I like big band versions of kids songs, like Ella Fitzgerald’s version of “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” or Frank Sinatra’s version of “Jeepers Creepers.”
    – My favorite movie is Harvey.
    – I like George Bailey way more than James Bond.

    I could go on and on, but this already is much too embarrassing. The bottom line is that Brian G. is right.

  119. David,

    I appreciate the level of raw, brutal honesty in your comment. But let me warn you — appreciation for honesty only gets you so far. If Mandy isn’t one of the nine songs on your list, then we really have nothing further to discuss.

  120. Bonus points to DKL (#119) and Kaimi (#120) for making me laugh at work.

  121. D. Fletcher says:

    Are Mormon men sissies?

    Even though I’m justly offended at the use of the word, I’m proud of being a complete sissy — cowardly, soft, and mostly all a blubber.

    I watched two movies last night, Gallipoli, and Lorenzo’s Oil, and cried real tears for about an hour.

    I always feel great after a good cry.

  122. DKL's Wife says:

    I posit there is no group of more manly men than Mormon men. Where else would you find men so willing to cry in public or put so much effort into a volunteer organization or have so many children or donate so much of their income to a church and not be embarrassed about it.

    These are men! They make the hard choices and stand proud.

    This is not an easy religion to belong to. I was struck by Mathew’s definition of manhood. I have met Mathew and (forgive me for sounding bold) he strikes me as a manly man. I know DKL, and he is a manly man.

    In fact, of all the manliest men I have ever met, the strongest man, the smartest man, the gentlest, the toughest, the wisest, the grittiest, they have all been Mormon men. Mormon men aren’t sissies.

  123. It would surely be a heartless soul who didn’t cry at those movies, D. Gallipoli is Mel Gibson at his finest.

  124. Re 109/110 and others:

    The world would not have been any different a place if Shakespeare would have been a faithful Elizabethan. Mostly, because Marlowe wrote everything anyway… :)

    Re 118:

    I agree — saying that “my religion forbids it” sounds a bit like you’re leaving off the “and I’m still relying on that excuse” excuse. Not drinking is a personal choice, and that’s all anyone needs to hear. Besides, all of the drunks out there are in AA anyway and aren’t drinking, either.

    Re 105:

    So-called “frat boy” behavior only succeeds because we tolerate it and allow it. I’ve always taken the approach that if I can’t win by not playing by a set of bad rules, then I’ll change the rules to ones I’ll play with.

    When I was just out of college, there was a group of us at work who don’t drink, don’t appreciate the strip club culture, and don’t have much patience anymore for the coworker subgroup who hijack any serious, thought-provoking discussion with banal discussions of their weekend exploits. We did our own thing. As one of us became successful, we helped the rest up the ladder. Eventually, while the other burnouts eventually dry out and grow up, we’re already there.

    I hate the “fatalism” that accompanies obedience to principles.

  125. Kaimi, two things: First, Mandy is, in fact, one of the 9 songs. Second, that’s the last one that I will name. It’s quite enough I must endure the humiliation of having admitted to the presence of the songs on my iPod. It’s just too much to ask that I enumerate them all. (Third, your comment had me rolling on the floor.)

    We’ve seen some conflicting views about manliness from Gordon B. Hinckley and Geoff J. and Mathew and others. Is there a resolution? Or is it just a matter of taste? My concept of manliness errs on the side of a more cosmopolitan view, in which the cowboy is often out of place. But a certain amount of outdoorsmanship is required in any case, such that the cosmopolitan man would be far less out of place on the range than a cowboy in the city. Part of the key, in my opinion, is being dynamic.

    In the 1969 edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette (by Elizabeth Post, Emily Post’s daughter-in-law), Elizabeth Post writes about the dread she felt before she first met her future mother-in-law, Emily Post, the world’s foremost expert on manners. But when she finally met Emily Post, she said that nobody had ever made her feel more comfortable. Elizabeth Post used this story to illustrate what manners are all about; viz., making other people feel comfortable.

    Going further than just manners, I think that a real man is one who can relate to others in nearly every situation. And by “relate to others,” I’m not just referring to superficial social pleasantries or “fitting in.” He takes an active and effortless interest in others, he doesn’t complain or whine, and he embraces (rather than runs from) his responsibilities to others (including his family, church, friends, and social acquaintances). There are times when mormonism is a plus here and times when mormonism is a minus. On the plus side, Mormonism is big on responsibilities. It is also big on appearances, so that Mormon men are (I think) more likely to make sure that things look easy for them. On the minus side, Mormonism often inculcates a simplistic, judgmental attitude which encourages people thump their chest about how righteous they are at other people’s expense due to their self-proclaimed love of justice. Also, I also think that mormon men often buy into a certain amount of social pressure from within Mormonism that handicaps them in many situations that arise among non-Mormons.

    But a real man doesn’t make other people feel wimpy or unmanly, or inadequate and unrighteous (except in circumstances where his specific calling or stewardship demands it), and he can turn from a conversation with a cowboy to a conversation with a business executive or a socialite or a lawyer or an introvert at the drop of a hat and without any apparent effort. (Thus, real men make excellent bar tenders.)

    And by all accounts, Jesus behaved this way. Though there was a small, select group of people for whom he had unkind words or no words at all (and there is good reason to doubt the historicity of these accounts in any case), Jesus got along with lepers, Centurians, Pharisees outside of Jerusalem, and fishermen. Christ turned water into wine for the pleasure of party guests, he ate meals with publicans, and he defended the adulteress from her persecutors (who had been thumping their chest about how righteous they were at her expense).

    At any rate, I think that understanding manliness in terms of this type of dynamism goes a long way toward resolving apparently conflicting views of manliness.

  126. married man says:

    It is not having had a succession of lovers that makes a man more “manly” to women, it is the nuance and experience of having lived with women, a better level of intimate understanding.

    Not that being chaste is not better, but it is a different level of knowledge.

    It has nothing to do with sex, though I can see a number of posters thinking it does.

    Sexual competency is just a matter of experience and paying attention. It is a skill that can be improved and that focusing on one woman can focus better than moving around.

    In fact, from the way the popular literature is written, it is pretty obvious that multiple partners reduces results. How many times has the technical literature about levels of orgasm resulted in a popular article about multiple third level orgasms how to reach them? It doesn’t happen by switching partners all the time and as a result, is not the sort of thing a Cosmo is going to discuss. It occurs by positive experience and continued work, one with another.

  127. Too embarrassed to put my name says:

    Nice comment, married man. Errr. Umm. Errr. Ahem.

    So, how many “levels” are there? And how do you know what level you’re at?

    Is there a secret code? You know, like A-B-A-B-Up-Down-Up-Down-Start-Select? Take a Wirt’s Leg and a Tome of Town Portal and hit Transmute?

  128. Sultan of Squirrels says:

    hey “too embarrased”. you play diablo 2? haha.

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