What happens when boys grow up without the influence of male authority? Stewart Dakers warns that the absence of engaged males in authority — fathers in particular — leads to brutal, crude, dangerous, and narcissistic teenage boys and young men.
In a brilliant essay published in The Guardian [London], Dakers introduced his readers to two teenage boys, “Split” and “Pole,” who are an intimidating presence in a London shopfront. From this Dakers moves to the heart of his story:
Split’s mum is effectively single and has devoted her life to bringing up Split and his sister, Paige. Pole’s mum has been on the edge for years, following her discovery that she did not really like children after all. By then, she’d had another two. While neither young man could be expected to appreciate the full implications of this, they know well enough that they owe their mums big time. And they resent it – as the immoderate language shows.
“I can sort her all right. Just don’t wanna have to listen to her all the bleedin’ time.” Both of them have indeed become good at “sorting” their mums. They have an instinct for weakness in others, which is daily expressed in small acts of intimidation in malls, at bus stops, in queues. These are the symptoms of a more chronic disaffection. They are masters of manipulation.
Dakers explains that far too many boys are now raised by women, virtually alone. Even when husbands and fathers are still part of the family picture, they do not give attention to their progeny or invest in their children. They have no emotional attachment to their sons and they do not discipline their boys. All the emotion, care, guidance, and discipline — what discipline there is — comes from females. Boys raised in a female environment learn quickly to become masters of manipulation, Dakers advises. They first learn to manipulate their mothers, then move on to other females:
From a very early age, they demanded attention – Pole because his mother starved him of it, Split due to competition with a smarter, older sister. When the guerrilla tactics of smash and grab failed to deliver the goods, Split learned trickery, cheating, inveigling, flattery. Their success was due to the overwhelming preoccupation of their mothers simply to survive and provide.
With the years, both boys had acquired level-five NVQs in getting their own way: treats, early smoking, bunking off school, avoiding domestic duties, getting the trainers, the bling. Once they had their mothers under their thumbs, they moved on to girls. They were first to lose their virginity – and take that of others. After a few fumbles, they quickly discovered that their skills of manipulation were equally effective up against the back wall.
Dakers explains that boys and young men learn two basic ways to manipulate their mothers and the other female authorities in their lives — “sweep her off her feet or pull the wool over her eyes.” They make their way through a progression of bad behaviors, manipulating their way around and through female authority.
And female authority is virtually all many boys see. As Dakers reports:
It is not necessarily the absence of fathers. Split’s was around, during those intervals between being a guest of Her Majesty. Pole’s is around all the time, but might as well not be. He lounges around expecting food, drink, TV, clothes, sex – OK, so he handles the remote. He offers words of wisdom, shouts instructions, but anything unpleasant – tantrums, homework – is women’s work. And on the occasions when anything requires discipline, handling, he’ll find some pressing errand in the shed, under the car, down the pub, to excuse himself.
Which reflects the reality of the wider world. At the sharp end, the rock face, there is hardly a man in sight. In their early years, up to puberty, authority is exercised on young men exclusively by women – shop assistants, teachers, health visitors, social workers and, of course, sisters and mothers.
As the boys get older, the problems grow more serious:
When the hormones kick in, when they move up to the more serious stuff – vandalism, graffiti, shopfront intimidation – here again, the delivery of reprimand, caution, assistance is delegated primarily to women. When it is a male voice, it is likely to divert the miscreant to the parent – and we know which. Even statutory stuff, in the pupil referral units, special schools, probation office, youth offending service, disciplinary hearings, the staff are overwhelmingly female.
Boys are increasingly raised without fathers and without the force of male authority. They are coddled, entertained, and reinforced in self-assertion by a constellation of female influences. So many mothers and other women give themselves selflessly to the raising of these boys, but boys need the controlling force of male authority — the male voice they cannot ignore. They need a man — a father or father figure — who knows what boys are up to when they try to manipulate, and who will put down an insurrection the moment it starts.
They need the influence and discipline of a man who will say no and make it stick, who will hold the boy accountable, and who will provide the necessary instruction in becoming a man. They need the male voice, but so many boys hear only the voices of women.
Stewart Dakers puts the blame on men, many of whom are fathers only in a biological sense, who pour themselves into professions and activities but have little to do with their boys. As Dakers relates, too many fathers “stand back or walk off” when their boys need attention — especially discipline — leaving mom all alone. This blame is rightly extended to an entire culture of males who shirk their responsibilities to the young, especially to boys and young men — and to a society that creates a feminized world of social assistance, education, and care.
Split and Pole spend their time strutting their exaggerated masculinity as they intimidate citizens on a London sidewalk. Rest assured that the boys and young men who do the same in American neighborhoods and shopping malls are doing so for the same reason — the absence of male authority.
We no longer have to wonder what a society of boys raised without fathers would look like. That society is taking shape before our eyes.