My friend over at Insanity Bytes has taken on caring for the Lost Boys – the angry and abusive cohorts that populate the gaming sites. Recent studies suggest that these are vulnerable men. They identify with the leaders of their communities and so take pride in their success, but are those most likely to be displaced by new competitors. They combat that vulnerability with abuse that drives away those that don’t match their social profile.
This generation of boys has much stacked against it. Automation is chewing up many of the entry-level jobs. And as resources have been drained from our educational system, tolerance for “out-of-the-box” thinking has decreased. Girls mature socially faster than boys, and (at least until puberty) tend to sustain harmony. Girls also mature faster linguistically, and so benefit from renewed emphasis on written communication. Boys in my sons’ generation are seen by the educational system as defective girls.
But that doesn’t mean that girls aren’t challenged by technology. One aspect of the problem manifested for me through an introduction to the “surnamepending” forum here on WordPress.
Women generate and thrive in social structure, and that structure is being obliterated by the proliferation of new choices. Predatory men wander the globe, whether the Slavik slavers that hunt the Russian hinterland or the foreign sex tourists that invade Thailand. Young girls raised with the expectation that survival depends upon bonding to a man don’t realize that pattern was sustained by regulation of a stable community. The predators exploit this disconnect, offering promises of devotion while flaunting their wealth. Vulnerable girls are swept up by passion, and drawn away into evil that consumes them.
I didn’t understand the psychological drive that motivates women until I read “Raising Ophelia.” The author, a therapist and counsellor, observed that little girls are perfectly rational creatures, as are crones (women after menopause). In between, women are driven by the need to become a “we.” Biologically, this originated as a tolerance for the nine-month parasitic invasion known as pregnancy. When allowed to enjoy it, the spiritual bond established in the womb is indeed beautiful and uplifting. The procreative impulse is buttressed by the benefits of social networks that help weak women weather a crisis – whether the loss of a breadwinner or illness in the home.
Back in the ‘80s, the Wilson Quarterly published a report that indicated that the American epidemic of anxiety coincided with the rise of suburbia, and the isolation of women behind fences. If the devil makes work for idle male hands, he preys more insidiously upon the isolated female mind.
It is often through religion that women reconstruct their social network. I have observed previously that many of the spiritual communities I navigate are in fact dominated by women – even when a man stands in the pulpit on Sunday. But those communities famously lack the intimacy of the 19th-century village or borough, often drawing people together only on weekends. The mega-church attracts young women because it offers a smorgasbord of suitors, but actually getting to know someone well requires observing them in relationship with others in an informal setting. Modern “worship-as-entertainment”, with everyone rooted to their seats, is much too structured for natural interaction.
So where are the answers? I have asserted that most modern religion – Christianity not excepted, although one can point to recidivism – originates in practices that help us liberate our spirituality from emotion into reason. Understanding is essential to our psychological survival. As I finally encapsulated it:
The heart guides the head, and the head protects the heart.
The wisdom that I have to offer young women begins with that received from F. Scott Peck in The Road Less Travelled: recognize that “love” is different from “cathecting,” the latter being the uncontrolled merging of personalities that we know as “falling in love.” The confusion arises because we feel really wonderful while cathecting, particularly in the intimacy of sex. Trying to achieve that state is naturally part of loving ourselves. However, it’s not necessarily loving the other person.
So when a man finishes masturbating in you, there’s a reason that you feel empty afterwards. And when he leaves you with a “broken heart”, it’s because you’ve let him make off with a big chunk of your soul. Then when you recover through a relationship with somebody that actually loves you, the bastard shows up again to suck more energy out of you. Yes it feels good in the short term, because there’s always a rush when two spirits choose to make way for each other, and certainly it’s nice to be reunited with all those missing pieces of yourself, but the purpose on his side is to rip your soul apart (literally) so that he can feed his ego.
Given that warning, my sense of what finding yourself in love should be like was encapsulated (along with a lot of other wisdom about science and Christianity and raising my sons) in a poem called “Yearnings.” It began:
The Earth, at night, dances with the moon
Cadence and rhythm, their persons speaking
Of love, with power, purpose and strength,
Fluttering towards kindred recognitions.
The interpretation as a father to a daughter was:
When you find yourself moving in the same circles,
Creating success for yourself and others,
Then you will know that you have found your man.
Until then, as Sarah McClachlan put it “Hold on to Your Self.” And if it’s too late, open your suffering heart and proclaim, “That’s my energy, meant for my future, and I’m taking it back.”