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The Man Code: What Is and What Could Be

Abstractions and programs about gender always miss the mark, because gender, genuine and full of blood, can never be separated in real life from individuality.
Thomas Moore

Most boys in our culture, somewhere around three to seven years old, have imposed upon them something called the “Boy Code.” In its shortest form, it reads as follows: “Don’t be a girl.” Later in life, this evolves into the “Man Code” (also called Male Code or Male Agenda or Guy Code), essentially “Don’t be a woman.” There’s a bit more to it, which I’ll get into, but you get the idea. Both codes involve a so-called “negative achievement,” in each case a rejection and renunciation (as well as devaluing) of what our dominant culture deems as feminine.

Below, after some review of the situation and the damage that’s being done, I propose a new, improved Man Code. This new code does no damage, actually leads to psychological health, and does not require boys and men (or anyone else for that matter) to go through life constantly trying to prove a negative (which is impossible).

While this situation has started to change as the feminist movement (of which I approve in principle) weighs in and Millennial Men, who won’t have it, begin to come online. However, back in the day (the 20th century), the story went a little like as follows.

Typically a father sought to enforce the Boy Code lest the boy become feminized, a mama’s boy, or worse yet homosexual. After all, this was the father’s legacy as well and his duty as a father. This legacy had been handed down from father to son for many generations and strongly reinforced by the popular culture. Oh, by the way, the mother often colluded with the father on this, or else!

The father took the boy out of the mother’s arms, figuratively if not literally, and made him be with him. So, the boy lost out on his mother’s love, affection, touch, modeling about how to relate and connect with others, especially women, and a whole host of other really valuable experiences for an adult-in-training.

So, now the boy was left with the father, from whom the boy was supposed to learn how to be “a man.” Unfortunately, the father was off working or drinking or was emotionally absent or just plain didn’t know how to be an adult himself. So, what’s a boy to do?

Well, he looked to his peers, an equally clueless bunch of young adults-in-training who only have each other and the Boy Code to guide them. Hmm, what could go wrong there?

Or, he graduated from the Boy Code to the Man Code. Here are some of its principles:*

  • No Sissy Stuff: Do not be a girl or woman or a “pussy.” Do not express warm feelings or act in a dependent manner. Do not be “vulnerable” or “intimate” unless that means having sex or it leads to having sex. That’s OK then.
  • Be a Big Wheel: Do not lose. Do not fail. Do not ask for help. Do not say “I don’t know.”
  • Be a Sturdy Oak: Do not show weakness or pain, or grieve openly.
  • Give ‘Em Hell: Do not be scared or meek or passive.

Got it, Ladies? It’s the Boy Code on steroids. Negative achievement at its finest. Ok, guys, begin your life of constantly trying to prove a negative: I am not a woman. Good luck with that!

So, let’s review the situation. By now we have a man (chronologically) who doesn’t know how to relate or connect to others on any kind of a personal level, doesn’t dare reveal much about himself except how great he is, counteracts shame with grandiosity, really only knows others on a surface level, or should I say as objects, doesn’t know a thing about women other than what hole to put it in, doesn’t want learn about real relationships, is stressed out all the time trying to prove he’s not a wimp, a loser, a pansy, etc.

Doesn’t that sound like a keeper?

“Gee, he seemed so nice in the beginning! He talked about himself, he seemed to be interested in what I had to say, he liked what I liked, and so on. What happened?”

For him, it was a competition and he won! He got you in the sack, got what he wanted, got to brag to his buddies. He’s not a loser. He didn’t fail. He’s in control now, just where he needs to be. Until his girlfriend or wife gets fed up and starts thinking about leaving. (70% of all people who file for divorce are women.)

In the meantime, because of all the stress and the fact that he is not allowed to channel his emotions in a healthy manner, the man is ripe for an addiction, a heart attack, stroke, cancer, erectile dysfunction, the male version of depression, early death, you name it. He’s on his way!


Unless he has the courage or is desperate enough to move in the direction of the New Man Code. Finally, what you’ve been waiting for all this time! Here it is! (Drum roll please.)

New Man Code: Be who the f*ck you are!

I threw the F word in there to make it more palatable to men, to allow them to transition from the old to the new without having to shift their mindset too much, to keep their testosterone happy.

Guys, please note there’s nothing in the New Man Code about becoming a woman or like one, which is a big fear and what men think feminists want. Also note that there is no need to prove a negative, an impossible task. The only hard part is (another drum roll please) to determine who you really are and be that. Yikes!

Tough stuff, for sure. But you’re up to it. Guys like me can show you the way if you’re game. Also, your wife and children will love you for it, if that means anything to you.

Lastly, please everyone note that if you took the New Man Code and removed the words “man” and “the f*ck,” you’d have a code for everyone. Imagine what that would be like!

OK, now, go out there and be a … YOU!

*Concepts developed by social scientists Deborah David and Robert Brannon

Copyright 2017 Daniel J. Metevier

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