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Mainly Manly Writing about Manly Men


If I were smart, I’d probably leave any commentary on this blog post to the cat graphic which accompanied its twitter link:

But I’m gonna be dumb instead and say obviously it’s a huge mistake to characterize qualities you admire as “traditionally masculine” if you’re not intending to be incredibly sexist. If you want to write stories about men being heroic and doing cool action-hero-type things, that’s cool. But continuing to call that behavior we tend to valorize “traditionally masculine” is just jerky and misguided.  Lots of things have “traditionally” been called this and that and the traditions were based on bullshit.

I get that there are lots of men out there who like to imagine themselves as real-life heroes. It’s an impulse I understand, as it is fun to play the badass. (Hence the popularity of badass heroines like Katniss Everdeen.) But I think for too many men (especially conservative men) this need to be a badass can lead to warped thinking.

When you think about real-life heroes, real-life badasses…the soldiers, the firefighters, the doctors without borders, the legitimately lethal martial artists…the percentage of people who are actual badasses is vanishingly small. And, men, chances are very very very good that YOU’RE NOT ONE OF THEM. And you never will be. And denigrating women will never help you become one. (And owning an arsenal of guns won’t either.) Anxious masculinity is such a bummer, even when it’s revealed in blog posts as seemingly innocuous as this one.


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  • Eric

    A bad-ass, like this guy?

    • Samuel Browning

      I hope you are joking about Frank Dux. The guy is delusional and makes all kinds of outlandish claims about his military record, and working for the CIA.

      I’d be happy to discuss the evidence if you doubt this.

      • Those who follow the link and read it can figure things out for themselves.

      • Are you telling me Jean-Claude Van Damme lied to me? That’ll be pistols at dawn, sir.

        • Samuel Browning

          Actually Frank sued Jean-Claude Van Dumb over royalties to the movie “The Quest”. Van Dumb won at trial. The jury thought Frank was lying like a rug.

          Do you have any idea how badly you you have to do, to lose a credibility contest with someone like Jean-Claude.

        • Manly!

    • Halloween Jack

      Ah, yes, another in the long line of American martial arts teachers who exaggerate their credentials to lure impressionable young men into their dojos. See also: Count Dante.

      • slightly_peeved

        If you want to celebrate a genuinely interesting US martial artist with pretty good credentials (both as a fighter and instructor), look up Gene LeBell

  • I’d also say that the overlap in a Hero/Bad Ass Venn Diagram might be 50% or less. And of course there’s behavior that is heroic that isn’t particularly masculine.

    • Or to put it another way, it seems that certain men would like the definition of heroic to be Only Things Guys Do, Forever. So they get all wee-weed up by the idea of women in combat. Or even gay men in combat. Because cooties make the heroic thing less heroic.

      • Oh yeah, you definitely get into weird territory when you put labels like “heroic” or “badass” on stuff. Who decides what is which? Or if it’s either?

      • Malaclypse

        The most heroic person I know is the single mother of a severely disabled child (technically, now young man). I can’t imagine doing what she does for a single week, much less the past 19 years.

        • Tyto

          This. And to sharpen the point in the OP, the perceived necessity of manly men doing the manly things must be a huge driver of the movement to ensure women do not see combat (despite the fact that, you know, they already have in just about every war ever).

        • DrDick


      • smrnda

        I shouldn’t tell these guys about Lyudmilla Pavlichenko then, Soviet record-holding sniper from WWII who was a highly decorated soldier. The idea of a woman serving in combat and doing so well back when our grandparents were young would be just too much.

    • DrDick

      Having known a lot of guys who were in Vietnam and hung out in fairly unsavory places, I have known a fair number of serious badasses. I have also known a few genuine heroes, but the overlap is tiny. Most of the badasses are simply sociopathic assholes and most of the heroes have absolutely no desire to repeat that performance.

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        think it’s fair to say we’re supposed to be scared of badasses in a way we’re not supposed to be scared of heroes?

      • The thing I have found about badasses is they have to tell you how badass they are within five seconds of meeting you.

        To me this creates the impression of an insecure person who likes to brag a lot and generally impress everyone with his badassery.

        When an insecure person who likes to brag a lot is a badass due to weapons owned and/or combat skills, my Abusive Dick radar starts to bleep and I run like a bunny.

        Heroes (as I define them anyway) don’t brag.

        • BruceJ

          No, this is the thing you’ve found out about fake badasses. Real badasses don’t feel the need to tell you about their badassery.

          Just know you’ll never go on a hike twice with them.

          “my…pant…god…my…lungs…pant pant…are liquefying…pant pant…and leaking …pant pant…out of my skin…I…can’t…pant pant…feel…my…legs…pant”

          “Oh come on, it’s only another ten miles!

          • Those are jocks. Maybe hardasses.

            But your definition excludes the duds who sit around bragging or who think their collection of unused weapons makes them in to Rambo, so that’s cool.

            • DrDick

              BruceJ has a point. The really serious badasses I have meant did not have to advertise it, they just did it. People rarely messed with them more than once. Those guys are really scary, because they can be real friendly, right up to the point where they rip your head off and shit down your neck.

    • Jaime Oria

      While spending time at the library a lot the past 18 months (don’t ask), I couldn’t help but wonder if someone on the GQ editorial staff had lost a bet and the forfeit was to use the word ‘badass’ on the cover 4 times in a year’s worth of issues. There it was, like clockwork: “Bruce Willis Gives Us A Master Class in Badass” “Bryan Cranston Breaking Badass”….(and of naturally, those weren’t the only two examples where ‘badass’ was applied to describe men whose careers are well-paid games of Pretend) It was a sort of publisher’s Tourette’s, this word burped out at guaranteed intervals.

  • Gwen
    • Eric

      AAARGHH!!! Why did I click that link? Is there nothing that comes out of her mouth that isn’t Z-grade #slatepitch?

      • Gwen

        I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.

        What makes it so frustrating is that while ordinary slatepitch is merely-offensive-but-generally-reasonable (case in point: Emily Yoffe’s article about why women shouldn’t drink — say what you will about blaming the victims, but it is probably true that following this advice would reduce rapes), Paglia stuff usually has no redeeming value whatsoever.

        • Walt

          You’re not sorry. You knew what you were doing when you linked to Paglia. You broke a man. He was a fine upstanding citizen, and you broke him.

          • NonyNony

            Hey – she provided a warning. The words “Camile Paglia” are right there in the post. Proper netiquette requires that you warn people before linking to crap, not that you never link to crap.

            Also – netiquette is recognized by my spell check as a correct spelling. Interesting.

            • Gregor Sansa

              I found out the other day that my spell check recognizes “Cthuloid” but not “Cthulu”.

              • wjts

                It’s spelled “Cthulhu”.

      • Train wreck, couldn’t look away, etc.

        • Deptfordx

          I read the first sentence under the title and was Nope! closing this.

    • James E. Powell

      I read the first half or so. This is the same fawning “you’re not going to believe how fresh and provocative this person is” article about Paglia I’ve read many times over the last 20 years. Oh, and get this – she’s a lesbian! Which means, what exactly? Why do the writers of these articles always say that as if it was some super secret maybe scandalous thing that is only now being revealed and which makes her completely conventional claims about American society so much more interesting?

  • Mathguy

    What?! Owning a gun doesn’t make me a badass?

    –George Zimmerman

  • Gwen

    Suddenly inspired, btw, to write a story about a hypermasculine protagonist who is crippled by his own hypermasculinity, so busy trying to be a hero that he has trouble actually being one.

    “The City is in danger. Unfortunately The Mighty Dong is too busy screwing voluptuous co-eds to stop Doktor Doom from vaporizing us all.”

    • That would be fantastic.

      And when he finally tears himself away from the coeds spends an hour flexing in the mirror.

      • Stan Gable

        That sounds a lot like Zapp Brannigan to be honest. Probably a bunch of other characters but that was the first one that popped into my brain.

        • Gwen

          Yes I’m probably ripping off Groening.

          “Simpsons+Futurama Did It!”

        • Kiff, I have made it with a woman. Inform the men.

          • I feel like Zapp Branigan is a perfect distillation of….so many things , really.

            • He’s like James T. Kirk on steroids.

              • Another Holocene Human

                James T. Kirk with a Traumatic Brain Injury.

                • Barry Freed

                  Like James T. Kirk with a serious case of narcissistic personality disorder. Oh, wait…

              • Jaime Oria

                Somewhere in the DVD commentary tracks is one of the Futurama dudes saying that Zapp was basically conceived as William Shatner in command of an actual starship.

        • Hogan

          “You see, Killbots have a preset kill limit. Knowing their weakness, I sent wave after wave of my own men at them until they reached their limit and shut down. Kif, show them the medal I won. Just remember, I’m here for you if you ever need to send wave after wave of my men at anything. ISN’T THAT RIGHT MEN?”

          “You suck!”

          • I was just going to grab that quote.

            I hate you.

          • Another Holocene Human

            This just proves that Zapp is the male Honor Harrington.

            After reading those books I still can’t figure out why she’s the “hero”… I mean, she leaves a path of death and broken lives through the galaxy. Maybe the same kind of people who lionize McNamara or Kitchener.

            • Anonymous

              She kills people cleverly, especially those who oppose the space monarchy which rules by divine right of being “pretty good at the whole government thing.”

              • I tried the HH series after it was recommended but she’s boring and no fun. She’s no Cordelia Naismith, thats for sure.

                • Ahuitzotl


            • runsinbackground

              You know, I had a friend who swore by those books when I was in high school, and I never read them because they seemed like the kind of novels where the author was too busy typing with one hand to get any real swashbuckling done, so it’s nice to see that I was right for a completely different reason than I thought at the time.

        • Bartleby

          Also, too, Zaphod Beeblebrox.

          • Another Holocene Human

            Hey now, Zaphod is one hoopy frood who really knows how to party, man. He’s just this guy, you know?

            • Rigby Reardon

              And he always knows where his towel is.

        • bluefoot

          Is Zapp Branigan a play on Bash Brannigan from How to Murder Your Wife?

        • Medicine Man

          From imdb:
          Captain Zapp Brannigan: If we hit that bullseye, the rest of the dominoes should fall like a house of cards. Checkmate.

          [Kif groans]

          Captain Zapp Brannigan: Now, like all great plans, my strategy is so simple an idiot could have devised it. On my command all ships will line up and file directly into the alien death cannons, clogging them with wreckage.

          One of my favorite characters really.

      • Rod Rescueman, from “Twice Upon a Time” (1983).

  • Unfortunately I don’t have any posts that are more manly than the one you linked to for you to hate link to my blog. The manliest thing I have recently is this piece.


    As far as literature, my last post on the subject is not manly at all being as that three of the five works it refers to are by women.


    But, now that you have given me an example maybe I can try and write something ultra-masculine so I can earn a hate link from you. ;-)

    • rea

      Otto, you need to come to grips with the fact that we basically like you (even if you can be boring sometimes) so you’re never going to get a hate link from anyone around here.

      • JoyfulA


        Otto provides a different perspective.

        • I hate him because it’s the badass thing to hate people.

          • BigHank53

            I’ve seen your links. You hate everybody.

        • The Dark Avenger

          So does a funhouse mirror.

      • Barry Freed

        Yes, this.

      • sparks

        JOP was adorable until he started blogwhoring.

  • Barry Freed

    When you think about real-life heroes, real-life badasses…the soldiers, the firefighters, the doctors without borders, the legitimately lethal martial artists…the percentage of people who are actual real-life badasses is vanishingly small.

    Case in point: Audie Murphy.

    Short, a bit nebbishy looking (if you ask me) and the most highly decorated American soldier of WWII. If I was about to get in a bar room brawl with a bunch of guys and he was one of them I wouldn’t give him a second look. Which would be a big mistake.

    • LeeEsq

      You also have that Finnish guy from the Winter War with Russia. Even tinier than Audie Murphy, shorter than him by three inches and approaching his middle age years. Scared the shit out of the Soviet forces though single-handidly.

      • Lurker

        The most impressive thing about Häyhä is his civilian life. After beibg severely wounded, he returned to a civilian life that was shattered. Like 400,000 other Karelians, Häyhä’s family lost their home, which was ceded to Soviet Union. After the Finnish troops retook the area in the Continuation War, Häyhä returned to Karelia to rebuild his home, like 230,000 other Karelians. Two years later, in 1944, the area was lost again, this time permanently. Häyhä was evacuated back to what ws left if Finland with his family. There, he rebuilt his life for a second time, this time on a smaller resettlement homestead granted by the government. In addition to his work as farmer, he was active in the association of the military invalids.

        This successful transfer to a civilian life is something that very many decorated heroes don’t manage. Very often, being badass is a symptom of an asocial character, which makes civilian, peaceful life difficult.

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          Murphy didn’t adjust very well. Bill Mauldin wrote about how difficult he was to be around during the filming of “Red Badge of Courage”

          • A lot of those guys didn’t adjust very well. It’s just that the WWII generation rarely talked about it.

            I read about one guy who couldn’t sleep in the same bed with his wife for many years after – because he was afraid he might wake up in the middle of the night thinking she was a Jap and kill her.

            • steve

              I often wonder if the babyboomers and the constant theme of their “emotionally distant fathers,” which often appears in work about them are the direct result of a huge mass of undiagnosed/untreated PTSD sufferers.

              • Ralph Wiggum

                Interesting. Now you mention it, it’s not a ridiculous notion.

                • A friend of mine’s a therapist and on the young end of the Boomer group, and is fully convinced of that. She extends the PTSD into my Gen X assigned group because our Boomer dads as often as not wound up splitting before our 12th birthday, emotionally shattered by Vietnam, or both. On the bright side, she believes with equal surety that the trend is going, perhaps slowly, in the opposite direction, especially in the working class and poor groups she works with. Furthermore, we both see a big mess of under-30 groups of bougie hipster parents who are really into being dads and write blogs about being Cool Mamas and whatnot.

                  I’ll go one more and say I see a similar sentiment amongst my stump-jumper kinfolk and their world, particular the kids in their 20s. These kids are the kids of my erstwhile peers, and I’m seeing a joy to parenting that I really don’t think I saw from our folks back in the day. Stories I’ve been told have more than one newly minted grandma/pa admitting s/he could’ve done a better job but likes how his/her kid is rocking things.

                  So, yeah, not apropos of much, but a positive stroke, I like to think.

                • I agree completely with the notion that WWI and II, followed by the Korean War, really emotionally disabled a whole lot of men of that generation qua parent and also qua husband. A lot of the “strong/silent type” of masculinity may really be an aberration. As was the assumption that marriage meant misery (“the ‘ol ball and chain”) for both parties. I just don’t see that assumption anymore. If people are going to get married they seem to really want to get married and anticipate happiness. I know plenty of divorced couples but the vast majority of people I know in my own class/social circle are very happilly married and extremely devoted to child rearing–its not a chore that people feel forced to do.

                • BigHank53

                  If I recall my history correctly, the Hell’s Angels and other motorcycle gangs were basically started by WWII vets who couldn’t re-integrate into society and picked up military surplus motorcycles for $300.

              • That would make perfect sense.

                *Here young man, let’s put you through some shit that will peel your mind like an orange. [Repeat for a few months or more.]
                *Congrats, you’re still physically intact, mostly, you get to go back home.
                *By the way, any hint that you didn’t just shake it off with a laugh and a shrug will be treated as a sign you’re a WEAK AND WORTHLESS.
                *Have a nice life!

              • LeeEsq

                It makes a lot of sense. Both my grandfathers managed to stay state-side during World War II. My maternal grandfather was nearly thirty and was a skilled draftsman, so we got work in war related work. The paternal grandfather was assigned to the Coast Guards. My parents had relatively good experience with my parents. Any screwiness was basically a result of being the first fully assimilated generation since my Great-Grandparents were very Orthodox Jews.

            • Katya

              I highly recommend The Best Years of Our Lives. It deals precisely with the difficulty of re-adjusting to civilian life after WWII (plus, it has Myrna Loy!).

              • Hogan

                Second the recommendation.

            • DrDick

              My father was still having nightmares about his experiences in WWII (Guam, Saipan, & Iwo Jima) in his 70s.

        • CJColucci

          Where’s Loomis when we need him?

  • Matt T. in New Orleans

    Wasn’t “Paul Kemp” the whiney-white-guy protagonist of Hunter Thompson’s should-have-stayed-list novel? Either was, this comes off as something a ’50s style dudebro would bleat.

  • Patricia Kayden

    From the link: “So I write, and I tell stories about men who would never run ahead of women and children on a sinking ship, and I hope that some readers internalize that notion and live it out if they’re ever called on to do so.”

    Well, isn’t that nice of him?

  • LeeEsq

    “We’re men, we’re mainly men. We’re men in tights.”

    • efgoldman

      “I’m a lumberjack and I’m OK….”

  • James E. Powell

    I’ve seen quite a few of these “I’m a man for manly men!” blog posts over the years and this one is really not that bad.

    To me it reads, “I was raised with a certain narrative and I am not only going to adopt it, I’m going to reproduce it.”

    It’s an odd thing. I’ve seen it before but do not understand it – a person with a sort of nostalgia for a world that the person never experienced. When he was growing up, did all or most of the men in his life drink a lot, womanize, answer violence with violence? Were they really all stoic, courageous? Did he and his pals really face death together?

    • Vance Maverick

      Chandler’s version of this is so much better (“down these mean streets a man must go” etc.) And even that is sententious and leaden compared to his books.

  • Karen

    Here’s another example. Zuhlsdorf is a Totally Not At Gay Catholic priest whose particular obsession is “masculine” worship.

    • Another Holocene Human

      OMG the comments.

      • Karen

        When the original post is bad, NEVER read the comments. I did, and I despair for humanity, especially that part of humanity that has any contact with Zuhlsdorf, the AirSoft priest, or any of those altar boys.

        • wjts

          “The Greatest Generation, those men who fought in WWII. came from some families which still hunted for food, which knew how to shoot, and be responsible with guns. They were close enough to the prairie experience to understand what it means to protect a family.”

          According to the numerous WWII films I’ve seen over the years, each infantry squad in the ETO was equipped with an M1942-JGfB (Jewish Guy from Brooklyn, 1942 pattern). I am… dubious that those guys were particularly close to the “prairie experience”.

          • Hogan

            You guys’re an elite corps. [khoff] They say I’m hard, and I am hard. They say I am a bastard, and I’ll tell you what, I am a bastard. A hard, tough bastard. A tough, hard bastard with a pumpkin for a head. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be proud’a you dumb lugs. And I am proud of you. All’a you — Wycziezbsky, O’Brien, McTavish, Silverstein, Pucci, and the little Norwegian. While some guys have skedaddled, and others have bolted into the castle, we’re the Joes that have faced the facts. And the facts are this. Is this. Are … whatever. [khoff khoff] We’re at war.

          • Froley

            According to the same films, the M1942-JGfBs were responsible for many Midwestern soldiers’ first experiences with the confusion and horror upon receiving incoming sarcasm.

          • Karen

            All squadrons in WWII had a Jewish kid from Brooklyn, an Italian from the Bronx, a hillbilly who got killed in the first reel, right after asking somebody to write his mother, and a steely-eyed, lantern-jawed WASP from the Midwest who saved everyone’s lives.

            • wjts

              You forgot the Irish guy and the quiet guy who loses it in the third or fourth reel.

            • Tehanu

              The hillbilly got killed in the first reel, sure, but it wasn’t his mother — it was his girl. “We’re getting married as soon as I get home!”

              • Karen

                Oh, you’re right. And yes, there has to be a quiet, bookish type to die right before the final firefight and an Irish troublemaker who becomes Mr. Midwest’s best friend.

                • wjts

                  There were two types of quiet guys. The quiet bookish one who bought it before the big firefight was usually issued to squads serving in Italy and North Africa, but by the time of the Normandy landings and the advance into Germany that type was replaced by a newer model who lost his shit somewhere between 2/3rds and 3/4ths of the way through the mission, endangering the entire team and usually costing the life of at least one other soldier. This newer model was not popular with the troops, although it remained in service through both Korea and Vietnam.

          • herr doktor bimler

            The Greatest Generation … were close enough to the prairie experience to understand what it means to protect a family

            Forgive my skepticism. On this side of the world, the troops sent off to WW2 were mainly urban… rural families were considered to be involved in Crucial Wartime Industry, and therefore exempt.
            See also industrial workforce shortages, Rosie the Riveter, etc.

            • My two uncles who were drafted for WWII into, in their words, the fucking infantry, were both from the South Bronx. There was a deficit of prairie dogs in their combined life experience.

    • Ralph Wiggum

      Of course, the actual veteran (and someone who actually apparently pays attention to Catholic Just War theology) is shouted down, not least for quoting that long-haired hippy peace-freak, Pope Paul VI.

      • wjts

        I wonder if they argue that Maximilian Kolbe should be stripped of his sainthood on account of how he took the sissy way out rather than grabbing the machine gun from his captors’ hands and blasting his way to freedom like a Real Man would have.

  • I have am a bad-ass but only after I’ve eaten my preferred species of chili.

    • Me, too.

      • rea

        We can tell you’re a bad ass from your gravatar

      • Bruce Baugh

        Do you mean that you’re a bad-ass after President Scarface eats his preferred chili, or that you are a bad-ass after you eat it? This sort of wimpy postmodern relativistic un-referenced antecedent bullshit will not stand!

        Or maybe it will depending upon what the bad-ass did to the chair.

        • I am a bad ass. My imitation of a donkey leaves much to be desired.

  • Karen
    • Glurg. Reading that was very, very, difficult.

      • Karen

        The argument — to give the thing an undeserved honor — boils down to “boys won’t grow up unless they dislike their mothers.” I’m the mother of sons, so this makes me particularly livid.

        • I think its quite creepy the way he talks about “social engineers”–by which he seems to mean women and liberals–while demanding that a different form of social engineering be practiced by men such as himself. Its all social engineering–there is absolutely nothing new in a man arguing that the energy and goals of young men be channelled by their seniors in directions that the elders approve of. Why he (and his readers) pretend this is something new and different is beyond me. He is afraid of young men who he believes are incapable of being raised honorably by their own parents and schools and he wishes to substitute a form of gang membership for them to prevent them from becoming too individualistic and (in his mind) too independent and alienated from the virtues he feels they need.

          • As I understand it, “social engineer” means (in those circles) someone who tries to change someone’s mind about something by discussing it with them, away from the natural order of things.

            • I think its pretty clear that the term “social engineer” is meant to contrast communist/liberal thought with natural law–communists and liberals and psychologists and (probably) Jews talk about the desirability of changing previously understood custom or “natural” behavior while heterosexual marriage defenders, catholic priests, and republicans acknowledge life as it is and also natural law. So its “social engineering,” for example, to try to get people to share but its just nature to let the free market reign. Its “social engineering” to try to stop bullying but its just nature to let the jocks and the high status people bully the gays and the outcasts. Its social engineering to institute TItle 9 and affirmative action policies but its not social engineering to have legacy acceptance criteria for private schools or for there to be all male organizations.

              • Anonymous

                “Its “social engineering” to try to stop bullying but its just nature to let the jocks and the high status people bully the gays and the outcasts”

                This one is natural. Lots of animals live in cliques with social heirarchies and abuse where getting kicked out is a death sentence.

                That said, dogs eating their own poo is natural but that’s not a justification for letting your child do the same thing.

                Your objection is not so much with “natural” it’s with the notion that “natural” = “morally right”

                • I’m an anthropologist–I think everything is social and socially constructed.

              • You’re right. I confused it with a different use of “social engineering” (but the only one I’ve actually heard a person use).

                I think you’re crediting the post with your own background knowledge of a position like the writer’s, though.

                • Well, I read the post which uses “social engineering” to mean “mothers” and liberals and teachers and liberals and its a pretty common trope on the right wing to oppose specifically liberal ideas about “social engineering” with conservative hard headed realism about “human nature” so I suppose you could say I was reading that into the post. But if you read around, especially Catholic thought, you will often find social engineering used in just this way–its the thing that limp wristed liberals do that good catholics and conservatives don’t do. You know who else uses “social engineering” this way? Paul Ryan, Eric Cantor, and pretty much the entire kit and caboodle of the Republicans in the house and the senate.

                • I’ve only heard the sense you’re using it in w/r/t Hayek and similar theorists, and only online. I’ve read some conservative sites and I’ve never seen it used there. I suddenly started hearing it used, though, in discussions of things like talking to people in bars, or calling them on the phone to get their passwords and other private information–and by extension to both e-mailing people to con them into thinking you’re someone you’re not, and plain phishing operations–but a bit paranoid as if everyone who wanted your information was about to use it to manipulate your accounts.

                  I agree that the writer is probably echoing a use of the term he’s heard elsewhere, but the “logic” is such an incoherent blog of incompatible statements that I’d hesitate to guess at what other beliefs the writer has. Anyone who’s willing to say little boys shouldn’t be punished for aggressive behavior is either in a dream-world or is using “aggressive” in some dream-like definition where it doesn’t include hitting and biting.

    • Oh, great. I could only read one paragraph, but it’s nice to know that refusing to “punish” little boys when they show “aggression” will make for teenagers and men who are better able to handle their aggression. Because “male initiation” or something. Without “male initiation” boys will turn to gangs.

    • Gwen

      I got about six paragraphs in and then I felt like gouging my eyes out.

    • ChrisTS

      Oh, gack, I admit I find it even worse that this was written by a priest.

    • Sly

      When I think of victims of bullying, my mind immediately turns to a Byzantine Emperor who had his male relatives on his father’s side blinded and/or their tongue’s cut out because people thought he was a shitty ruler (and he was).

      • Hogan

        The great thing about a Catholic education is the range of historical and cultural references you can deploy to pretty up your most violent and authoritarian impulses. The right shade of lipstick for any pig.

    • Jeffrey Beaumont

      Probably not even vaguely fair to lump that garbage from catholic men or whatever with Paul Kemp.

  • dsn

    Everything you wanted to know about (actual) badasses http://badassoftheweek.com/

    The writing style may feature some over the top metaphors, but a lot of these guys were in fact, as crazy as their writeups make them out to be.

  • Lee Rudolph

    Some call them the Mad Mullahs…but they call themselves Badasses from the Madrassas!

    (Now showing in selected theaters; everywhere this Friday.)

    • FlipYrWhig

      Also they wear pastel plaid shirts, making them Badasses in Madras-es in Madrassas. And collectively they don’t give rat-asses.

      • ADHDJ

        Unfortunately they’re always getting their old-timey hair pomade on their shirts, making them Badasses in Macassar-muddled Madras-es in Madrassas. They kick you in the balls until you puke molasses.

    • Helmut Monotreme

      Some of the ones from northern Virgina, are badasses from Manassas.

  • Nobdy

    Honor, courtesy, respect for self and others

    How could a woman ever be expected to adopt such manly virtues? Their biology would never allow it. Why if a woman were to attempt courtesy her womb would fly out through her netherport and slap her in the face, using the fallopian tubes as slapping flippers. This is simple science.

    Or is it that those things are just assumed in women as a baseline expectation of society (of course many women lack them, but they are expected to have them nonetheless) and virtues in men because so many dudes are lacking them??

    P.S. While men are mostly larger and stronger than women the real reason that certain pursuits are more closely associated with men, besides culture, is risk appetite and testosterone driven violence appetite. Some of the reason men have more of these are cultural, some are biological (testosterone is a helluva drug) but these lauded appetites are mostly maladaptive in modern society. They may fuel the heroic but restrained cop, but they also fuel police brutality and criminal thuggery (one of the things jail does best to control crime is to let young men age out of their testosterony 20s while segregated from society). And non-violent risk appetitite does fuel entrepreneurship and innovation but also things like the financial collapse and dangerous driving. Whoops.

    This guy is super self-satisified for someone who has not thought through what he is saying at all.

    • her netherport

      Or, if she’s a Mac user, her Thundernetherport.

      • NBarnes

        Better than her Firewire.

  • “The traditions of masculinity? What are they? I will tell you. They are three: rape, murder, and domestic battery. Good day, gentlemen.”

    (w/apologies to WSC)

    • NBarnes

      Rum, sodomy, and the lash!

      • They *claim* WSC never said that, but it is too good not to be true.

  • I don’t find the original post that bad, actually. The guy basically cops to writing fantasies of the kind of man he’d like to be, being rewarded by the kind of success he’d like his heroes to have in a world he’d like to be in. In other words: he’s a fantasist. He adds to that a dream that if people followed “the rules” and were “virtuous” the world would be a better place. Hey! I think that too! Of course, I’m not under any illusion that the virtues, such as they were, of Le Morte D’Artur, Conan the Barbarian, or Roman “virtu” (scare quotes here because he’s clearly not talking about anything actually practiced by any real Romans) have anything at all to do with, say, women and children first.

    Virtu, as understood by a Roman elite, certainly didn’t put women and children first at any time. Ditto for the virtues of the actual Morte D’Artur. If he read any real histories, like, say, Barbara Tuchmann’s history of the 14th century.

    I have really complicated feelings about all this focus on warfare and killing as the primary masculine virtues. I see the attraction, I really do. I was a big lover of Conan when I was a young girl and longed to respond to violence with violence. However, in the context of the lives most people live 1) only some kinds of women and children have their interests actually vindicated by the violent acts of men. And 2) Most of the rights which are important to me as a woman and a mother are not so much vindicated by violence as derailed by it. My husband, and countless other good men, have worked tirelessly to perform their functions as husbands, fathers, citizens through endurance and hard work, not killing people.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      i’ve read worse things, I think… though billing himself as the ‘ayatollah of rockandrollah’ kind of digs a hole right off

      he should try writing his kind of book with a woman protagonist. from how he describes his own politics, I’m kind of surprised he doesn’t – it might do really well

      • Robert E. Howard used to say that he wrote Conan the way he did because it cut down on how much thought he had to give his plots. Conan basically just cut his way out of every dilemma, hacked his way through every situation. There can’t be any life lessons for the ordinary man or woman, or even the ordinary person in society with that as a framework.

        This is another thing which reading this guy’s blog made me think. There’s a reason why westerns and war novels are a specialized genre–because they are cut off from reality and from familial life. The entire point of Shane, for example, is that the lone gunfighter can’t co-exist with the family farm. (You could make the same argument, of course, for John Wayne’s character in The Searchers). The blogger concentrates specifically on men and men’s relationships because (he says) he thinks they are cool and also so very necessary to inculcating virtues–but actually those warlike relationships and all male buddy/trench style relationships don’t really inculcate the virtues necessary for civilization or working with lots of other people or doing the daily sacrifices that are necessary for working and living together with other people. Sure, you might be well trained to order people into line or organize them to get off the Concordia, but you are probably not going to accept the daily grind and humiliation of laboring without reward to feed your family.

        Martial virtues are a special kind of virtue–they aren’t usually applied to non military persons or situations, the honor of non members/non males/sexually active women doesn’t even exist in any real sense. So martial virtues don’t really work in democracies, where lots of different races, sexes, and kinds of people need to intermingle and be respected. Martial virtues, at least historically, are also rather all or nothing. You win or you lose. But real social life is full of half measures, compromises,a nd struggles that can’t easily be resolved into winners and losers. Or one has to keep slogging even having lost social status.

        But those would be very, very, grim novels to write–exactly the same gloomy, pointless, stories that Thers was pillorying over at Whiskey Fire today in “Patriotism at the Fillums” where his dejected interlocutor suffers the horror of watching “Lone Survivor” and finding out that its possible to write a warrior story in which the warrior doesn’t win.

        • jim, some guy in iowa

          i think you’ve put into words better than I could why my favorite junk/genre reading is Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer series. there weren’t usually very happy endings – most of the time all Archer really did was figure out how things got so screwed up, and hoped that was enough to get the survivors on a different track

          • I think now is a great time to put up a link to O No, John Ringo.

            If you have never read this incredible review, you should. But the reason I put it up here is that the John Ringo books are all about the “masculine virtues” and the “fun with violence” trope without having any meaningful connection with the lived experience of most men and women or, if it is anything like their lived experience, their experience is so degraded and violent and miserable that its hardly worth living.

            • rea

              To be fair, John Ringo heartily approved of that review, which might lead one to suspect that the books were written with a certain amount of sarcastic intent:


              • BigHank53

                Some of John Ringo’s self-awareness seems to have worn thin over the years. One of his recent books spent a paragraph sneering over organic farming ’cause they use shit to fertilize fields. Having grown up near some dairy farms, I can assure Mr. Ringo that they have always used shit to fertilize fields, because (a) it works and (b) finding a few tons of free shit to spread on your field isn’t a difficult trick for many farmers. Last year he reportedly pitched a snit over John Scalzi’s winning a Hugo, with a bunch of whining about “political correctness.”

              • Yeah, no, I think he’s a nice guy and he took a ribbing pretty well but I don’ tthink he wrote those books with any kind of “sarcastic intent.” I think he liked spinning those fantasies, unironically and certainly with no didactic intent.

                • I don’t remember where I saw this, but according to Ringo he wanted to write another book and the OH JOHN RINGO NO kept crawling inside his head and making it impossible for him to write the other stuff he wanted.

                  So he told his publisher about it, (supposedly) to say that he wanted to write the damn book and get it out of the way, and the publisher was all like “Huh, I think that would actually sell.”

                  Of course, the part that I’m leaving out here is that Ringo still had to actually make the choice to write the book and publish it. But as you say that’s where the fantasist comes in.

                • But Ringo had published the books already, that were being critiqued in the famous “O, John Ringo, no” essay. He’s not in any worse sitution than any other shlock writer who finds out that people don’t universally admire reading his soft porn/mary sue fantasies or that what he is writing is kind of disgusting to normal people and his real fans are drooling morons. David Lodge wrote a pretty funny fictional account of a “serious” writer whose works are fed through a computer program and who discovers that he “always uses the word hand within ten words of the word breast” in an incredibly creepy and ritualistic way (IIRC). So my withers are unwrung for Ringo.

          • The gumshoe as psychiatrist, was my overall impression. Makes some of the series feel a bit dated.

            • jim, some guy in iowa

              oh sure. everything that doesn’t have a smartphone is dated. and Macdonald wasn’t quite the Writer he wanted to be, either

              but i’ll take a bit of psychiatry, even though the whole thing is kind of debunked now, over the ten million and seventh iteration of revenge porn

        • Karen

          Your comment about martial values and virtues being incompatible with civilian democratic virtues casts in interesting light on why these two genres – westerns and Conan fantasies — became so popular after WWI and WWII.

          • Hogan

            There’s always been a streak of Cincinnatus in American culture–martial virtues aren’t something you cultivate; when there’s a war that needs fighting, you fight it without a bunch of fuss and then take off your uniform, go home and carry on with what you were doing. It’s the Washington/Grant/Eisenhower tradition. The other streak is represented by McClellan, Patton and MacArthur. You know–assholes.

            • Barry Freed

              I’d like to manly buy this comment a manly beer in manful appreciation.

        • The entire point of Shane, for example, is that the lone gunfighter can’t co-exist with the family farm. (You could make the same argument, of course, for John Wayne’s character in The Searchers).

          Or A View from the Bridge, which is an enormously schematic drama about the difference between the Old Country (in this case Sicily) and Civilized Life, the Oresteia in English. (I don’t know who it was who ruined Miller, the postwar college English department or the Communists.)

        • Herbal Infusion Bagger

          There’s some tragic irony in R.E. Howard, who created multiple archetypical manly “lone wolf” characters (Conan, Kull, Bran Mak Morn, Turlough Dubh, Solomon Kane), killing himself immediately after the death of his mother.

          • did he really? I forgot that. I had all his books when I was a teenager. Wish I still had them. He even wrote medieval romances among his other potboilers.

          • Jaime Oria

            IIRC, his mother was on her deathbed and Howard couldn’t face seeing her go, so he went first.

            • I just read the wiki on him. It looks like he prepared in advance to kill himself, even buying an entire family cemetery plot and leaving lots of clues and orders for after his own death, got the gun and waited until the Nurse told him his mother was not going to recover from her long struggle with TB and her coma.

        • Hogan

          (You could make the same argument, of course, for John Wayne’s character in The Searchers).

          Or his character in The Man who Shot Liberty Valance, or his character in The Sands of Iwo Jima, or his character in . . . hey, wait a minute . . .

      • he should try writing his kind of book with a woman protagonist. from how he describes his own politics, I’m kind of surprised he doesn’t – it might do really well

        Filmwise, Salt was apparently written for Tom Cruise and is the standard ridiculous nonsense, but it WAS interesting for having Angelina Jolie avenge her innocent husband by killing dozens and blowing shit up.

        • There’s a movie I don’t remember at all. She gets out of the building and then . . .

          • Its awful, but I daresay its substantially improved by being cast with a woman instead of a man, and any biped instead of Tom Cruise.

            • Karen

              That’s completely unfair to most dogs.

      • slightly_peeved

        billing himself as the ‘ayatollah of rockandrollah’

        So he’s modelling himself on a Canadian singer/songwriter and actor then? Not that he isn’t extremely athletic, but I think it’s apt that he models himself on someone who is pretending to fight.

        • Barry Freed

          I heard the handsomest man in rock n’roll bill himself as that at a reunion show back in the mid 80s. (And of course the reference is to Lord Humungus in Mad Max 2).

    • MacCheerful

      It is also interesting to note that the nuance involved in the virtue he describes – actually intelligently putting the needs of weaker individuals first (while swinging a sword and bedding the nubile) is so difficult that for most people masculinity just becomes the sword swinging.

      I give you Bret Hume on who recently has demonstrated masculinity:


      It’s too obvious to point out that the only person Chris (and his aides) was putting first was Chris. It’s also that the real masculine virtue being prized is not virtue or self sacrifice but directness – going from point A to point B in as straight a line as possible without concern about social or ethical constraints.

      So sure, more stories about self sacrificing virtuous handsome warriors would not be a bad thing if they really demonstrate those virtues.

    • It ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

      I was utterly terrified – but I got in the plane and flew it anyway.

      • Hogan

        Archie Gates: You’re scared, right?

        Conrad Vig: Maybe.

        Archie Gates: The way it works is, you do the thing you’re scared shitless of, and you get the courage AFTER you do it, not before you do it.

        Conrad Vig: That’s a dumbass way to work. It should be the other way around.

        Archie Gates: I know. That’s the way it works.

    • Hogan

      Who was that guy who wrote the eight-part gazillion-word version of this post? Friend of Vox Day? This is way better than that; at least it doesn’t go much beyond “I tell the stories I tell because they’re the stories I want to hear,” which is fair enough. Traditional masculinity virtus blah whatever; just keep it in the books and in your pants and we’ll get along fine.

      • I think if he had just said “I want to write stories about larger-than-life guys doing badass-type stuff because that’s what I like” I wouldn’t have blinked. Because there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

        I just think he’s still–even if he doesn’t realize it–consigning certain behaviors to men and certain others to women. (And it just so happens that all the men stuff is the stuff he digs and admires.)

        • Hogan

          Oh yeah, he’s still running about two quarts low on self-awareness, but at least he doesn’t seem to be insisting that his fantasy is what reality should look like.

    • Ronan

      I think a world where people followed the rules (all the time?) and were virtous (all the time again?) would be terrible
      when i go, I want it to be sobbing uncontrollably at 110 yrs of age, begging god for another few decades.

      • Youll be sobbing, but not for another few decades. Adventures and breaking all the rules are mot equal to fun, actually, no matter how many comic books you have collected.

        • Ronan

          im not speaking in favour of adventures, im speaking against them – or at least the ones where you end up dead. i dont see any attraction to killing or dying tbh, and certainly think any rules or virtures that this gombeen would put us under would be more than justly broken. so a world of virtues and rules written by the some uber mensch? nein danke

          • I don’t understand what rules you think anyone is making you follow?

            • Ronan

              well the context is obviously the OP, and the fantasies of the link, which i dont see any positives in personally. as in:

              “He adds to that a dream that if people followed “the rules” and were “virtuous” the world would be a better place. Hey! I think that too! ”


              “I have really complicated feelings about all this focus on warfare and killing as the primary masculine virtues. I see the attraction, I really do. ”

              all im saying is I dont see how, if people followed the rules and virtues he lays out,
              the world is going to be in any way a better place. itd be terrible, imo
              anyway this isnt really here nor there.

              in the *real world*, no i dont really think there are any meanigful ‘rules’ that people are making me follow which are making my life difficult.

              obvs the context is the thread – or i prob should have been clearer i guess

              • Ronan

                not that i mind him having his fantasies. he seems like a nice guy, TETO

    • Medicine Man

      I was going to say something similar.

      I don’t have any objection to someone writing some pulp fiction if they’re being honest about what they’re up to. It is the John Ringo/Vox Day types who are compelled to take their unrealistically idealized masculinity, wear it like a security blanket, and then project scorn on to anyone not like-minded. The author of this blog post, Paul Kemp, seems to do a bit of both but at least isn’t a gaping asshole about it.

      I rate this one “M” for meh.

  • Jon C.

    the percentage of people who are actual real-life badasses is vanishingly small. And, men, chances are very very very good that YOU’RE NOT ONE OF THEM. And you never will be.

    “Sure, I could have stayed in the past. I could have even been king. But in my own way, I am king. Hail to the King, baby.”

  • brad

    Look, being a bad ass depends on how the flesh between your legs is shaped, not on your competency at the skills required to be bad ass in any context, especially not fictive ones. And the notion of virtue held by warriors who cut off and preserved the penises of their opponents on occasion as trophies is entirely relevant to being a manly man of manly virtue today.
    So there. Stoopid girls. Stay on your side of the playground.

    • patgreene

      I know you’re being sarcastic, and I appreciate it, but when I hear men (and sometimes women) making those arguments in seriousness, I want to tell them about my sister-in-law. She’s a delicate flower, 5’4″ with long blond hair and quite pretty, who can lift a three hundred pound man and carry him out of a burning building. She’s an EMT and a firefighter and currently captain at her firehouse. (She also raises horses, but that’s beside the point.) She’s a true badass.

  • But sadly, like all the greats, El Macho was gone too soon. He died in the most macho way possible: riding a shark with 250 pounds of dynamite strapped to his chest into the mouth of an active volcano! It was glorious!

    • I still have not seen all of Despicable Me 2 and I’m dying to.

      • It is a surprisingly good sequel to an original film that I did not enjoy.

        • Gregor Sansa

          Seriously? I liked number 1 more. Number 2 had more symptoms of written-by-committee; a collection of moments with only a weak plot thread.

          • It’s true that there was stuff left on the table. The problem with the first one for me was that I didn’t think any of it was funny except for his rival. I don’t even really remember it except that I know what the characters look like.

            • Yeah, I was really underwhelmed by the first one too. Snippets of the second one have me pretty intrigued.

          • Barry Freed

            Are you saying that number 2 felt forced?

        • Barry Freed

          It is a surprisingly good sequel to an original film that I did not enjoysee.

    • Tyto

      All they found was a pile of singed chest hair…

      • The Dark Avenger

        +1 for the Steve Dallas reference.

  • Kamron

    Just thinking that if I replace “man” with “white”, I wonder if the guy would get why he’s the recipient of the lolcat above… (despite his nice disavowals at the end of the post).
    “My characters- as a rule they’re white. They’re smart, brave, strong, and industrious. Do I write this way because Im a racist? No, I do not. I write this way because I read a lot of SciFi about white people when I was young, and it was inspiring to me. And because, when I look around the world, I see white people behaving badly- not at all up to the standards of white people from the fiction of my youth, or of the standard I have set for myself as a white person.”
    “Now, the internet being what it is, I’m sure someone somewhere will read this and conclude something about me personally- that Im a racist. But I think anyone of any color can be smart, brave, strong, and benevolent. I voted for Obama ferchrisake!
    I merely reject the idea that exposing the virtues of white people is anti-black.
    By providing exemplars of certain behaviors and characteristics that I consider virtuous, I am not thereby asserting that other behaviors and characteristics are necessarily non-virtuous. E.g., I think it’s great for a black to be smart and industrious or otherwise demonstrate discipline. I think it’s great when a white guy plays jazz like a real musician or tries to do hip-hop or even dances.”

    In the comments, he gives an example about a mugger, which Ill translate to Racist thusly:
    “Now, let’s say we’ve got a white guy and a black guy who start businesses. If the white guy’s business fails due to lack of industriousness, that’s just pathetic. I think we can all agree that’s pathetic. If you don’t think a white guy being lazy is pathetic, I don’t even want to talk to you.
    But the black guy- if he works hard (and some do!) and has a successful business, that’s awesome and I love black people so it’s even more awesome. But if he lays around in his underwear all day watching soaps and eating fried chicken, well I don’t think anyone would really condemn him for just being himself. Certainly not the way we’d condemn a white guy who behaved like that.”

    • ++ infinity. Great comment!

    • witless chum

      Well said. The guy isn’t Vox Day or anything, but that doesn’t make him not dumb about this particular thing.

  • Lurker

    What, then, us a manly man? I remember very well an officer debriefing a platoon after an exercise:
    Now, I want to mention one man for his extraordinary deeds. Private X was the last man of the third squad. His position was to guard the back of the platoon. As required by the tactical doctrine, he took his position automatically. He calmly turned his back to the action and kept scanning the forest. Nothing happened for an hour. The forest was completely empty. He missed all the interesting things, looking vigilantly at unarmed trees. He is a fucking hero! He did his job without complaining, although it is utterly unglamourous. He watched the backs of everyone else. Remember: if you don’t have anything to do, you can always at least look at a direction no one else is looking at.

    Full disclosure: I was not the private X, nor the officer. I qualify for neither level of badassery. I just happened to be watching.

  • Sisyphus

    There is no normal. There are just people. Comparisons to some “norm” are really the root of inequality.

  • Paul Herzberg

    Any excuse to quote The X-Files:

    “Rugged, manly men in the full bloom of their manhood.”

  • Do better

    Is this a troll post? Are you all really that upset or just looking to kick up some dust? Don’t you have a prius to drive? Maybe a fart to smell? Or how about a starving kid in Micronesia to save with your facebook posts? Ey kid, there a loose thread in your sweatervest. Maybe you can fix it with your PhD in creative writing.

    • Ralph Wiggum

      You forgot the arugula pancakes. http://www.ordinaryvegan.net/chickpeapancakes/

    • Geez, Dennis. Do better.

      • Halloween Jack

        Oh, good luck with that.

        • The Dark Avenger

          Questioning constructs of masculinity isn’t for the faint of heart, apparently…..

  • joe from Lowell

    They drink a lot. They sometimes womanize. They answer violence with violence…They have their emotions mostly in check.

    That jumped out at me. They get all rowdy and drink and fuck and fight, but they have their emotions in check. What does that mean?

    • I guess anger doesn’t count as an emotion.

      • Very good.

      • John Lydon

        It is, of course, an energy.

  • Halloween Jack

    For the (web)comic relief: Manly Guys Doing Manly Things. Lots of videogame injokes, but should be enjoyable to the ungamed, nevertheless.

  • guthrie

    I cringe whenever I hear someone say, to a boy ” You throw like a girl”. It’s splitting up the world into things that men do and things that women do, and they don’t overlap, and girls can’t throw. Whereas in real life, they definitely can and do.

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