Propamanda; Dethroning the Frat Boy Nation and Exposing Lad Culture
So far in this series, we’ve began to realise the tragedy of modern masculinity and looked at how we’re allowing our identity to be forged by our use of social media. In each prior piece, the role of Frat Boys and Lad Culture was introduced gently and selectively. In this article however, we’ll take a broad and honest look at the dark side of Frat Boys and Lad Culture and begin to expose some of the lies we’re told as well as forwarding a handful of solutions that might just make a difference.
But what exactly is F & L Culture?
Frat Boy (US) and Lad (UK) Culture is the code of shared behaviours, beliefs and values found prominently, but not exclusively, homosocially between groups of men regardless of age, ethnicity, social background, or religion. It has been viewed as a direct backlash against feminism, although cross-cultural examples found throughout many periods of history provide ample suggestion that the modern manifestation is just the latest, ugly descendant. Whilst it would be unwise to umbrella entire cultures, communities and historic periods together for the purpose of argument, trends and patterns do exist. This collective set of characteristics and carefully intertwined behaviours forward the big four of traditional masculinity; possession and accumulation of wealth, the desire and manipulation of power/control over people and objects (including substances), extreme sexual expression, and poor emotional literacy/expression.
Dapper Laughs, the controversial English comic, relies on sexual content, innuendos and the charade of rape for laughs in his “just a bit of fun” television programmes and social media clips. DL offers “his expert knowledge” in a misogynistic circus of pub banter, sexual gestures, seduction, objectification and male dominance all framed in a cheeky-chappy image. Whilst DL’s program On The Pull was cancelled by ITV (only after receiving a petition of 68,000 signatures insisting the channel cancel the rest of the series), the success of comics and public figures making light of rape and sexual assault is extremely concerning.
Across the Atlantic, blogger and pick-up artist Roosh V forwards principles cut from the same cloth as Dapper Laughs, but with more eloquence and conviction. V has written over 20 “sex tourist” books instructing men, or “kings” as he describes them, on how to coerce girls into sexual interaction. Sadly, Laughs and V are just two figureheads of a culture that preaches heteronormative values surrounding hyper-masculinity which majors in the aforementioned big four. Dapper Laughs’ signature is the ease by which he makes light of sexual expression twinned with male dominance and emotional illiteracy. Whilst Dapper Laughs giggles, Roosh V boasts. His Return of Kings online forum gives men, often vulnerable and schooled in the art of internet anonymity, a sense of united belonging around a common cause.
Speaking of a united cause, our colleges, university societies and fraternities were traditionally a place of shared belonging and knowledge. Now, sexual assaults and hazing deaths are overshadowing academic achievement with a terrifying regularity. From tearing down LGBT flags, to burning a £50 note in front of a homeless person, the price of camaraderie and belonging has seemingly never been higher. When looking for an example of the modern day desire and manipulation of power amongst groups of men, we’d struggle to find a more appropriate example than hazing amongst Fratboys; the practice of rituals involving humiliation and harassment as a way of initiating individuals or groups into a wider community.
Men are believing the lies they’re told about wealth and emotional literacy and are paying for it with their lives. Social icons such as Instagram ‘King’ Dan Bilzerian (17.4m followers) present a lifestyle made up of barely dressed women, excessive gambling and more firearms than your average NRA annual barbeque. Together with the increase of pastimes and leisure pursuits requiring significant consumer investment, wealth is at risk of becoming the defining characteristic for male emotional stability. Popular male role models such as Drake, James Corden, The Inbetweeners, the character of Ron Burgundy (in Anchorman), and Seth Rogan (in everything) hardly give the every-day man in the street a mature, positive or realistic example to follow. Violent, immature, substance abusing, and extraordinarily rich. Try naming a famous male who does not meet any of the above criteria. Answers on a postcard please. The days of famous scientists, inventors, teachers and thinkers are done. Now we’re left with actors-come-aftershave salesmen, affluent quasi-celebrities from Jersey Shore and The Only Way Is Essex, and the rise and fall of former child prodigies to fill the tabloid press.
Individuals and groups drift into negative behaviours en masse when positive behaviours (such as the ability to react to real life situations with emotional maturity or to make safe and positive decisions which don’t lead to the sexual assault of an unconscious female) aren’t reinforced, celebrated and invested in. In order for generations of men to thrive, we must invest in them as well as provide strict deterrents (regardless of background) for unlawful and unacceptable behaviours. We must provide inclusive communities for men to belong to, based on support, intimacy, and a self-value. For too long have men been taught that vulnerability and accountability are weaknesses and not prized strengths. Individuals and groups must be out-spoken in order to challenge hate-groups and promote positive attitudes. The Big Four must be challenged head on, and the alternatives must be heavily invested in. Healthy sexual relationships founded on consent and understanding must be prized, as must investment in emotional health and well-being. Influence and wealth must be replaced as two pillars of male culture by the valuing of ourselves and others rather than positions and possessions.
In the age of Propamanda, Proverbs 18 is wise council:
“An unfriendly person pursues selfish ends and against all sound judgment starts quarrels. Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions. When wickedness comes, so does contempt, and with shame comes reproach. The words of the mouth are deep waters, but the fountain of wisdom is a rushing stream. It is not good to be partial to the wicked and so deprive the innocent of justice. The lips of fools bring them strife, and their mouths invite a beating. The mouths of fools are their undoing, and their lips are a snare to their very lives. The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts. One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys. The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it a wall too high to scale. Before a downfall the heart is haughty, but humility comes before honour. To answer before listening—that is folly and shame. The human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear? The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out. A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great. In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines. Casting the lot settles disputes and keeps strong opponents apart. A brother wronged is more unyielding than a fortified city; disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel. From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled; with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied. The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favour from the Lord. The poor plead for mercy, but the rich answer harshly. One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (NIV
Next week, I'll question how we can unearth the value in the women we know, and the women we don’t know.