Review: Guyland by Michael Kimmel

Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men

I read this book for my masculinities class.  It describes Kimmel’s perspective on the extended adolescence in American, specifically young men from ages 16-26 or so.  The measures of adulthood used to be finishing school, getting a job/career, getting married and having kids.  All of these things generally happened at about the same time.  Now, though, they are spread out and young men are staying young men for longer.  Kimmel discusses porn, rape, hooking up, the guy code (don’t cry, bros before hos, etc.), sports and girls in guyland.  He describes these men’s obsession of sex and avoidance of relationships.  He also shares is opinion on how Guyland can be changed ( removing the cultures of silence, entitlement and protection and encouraging men to be whole humans not just manly men).

I really did enjoy this book.  It shares some interesting stories about young college aged men and explains one decent theory that explains some of the men I knew as an undergraduate.  The author has a lot of experience and clearly his insights have some value.

However, his methods are flawed.  First, this book only really explains or interviews white, middle-class students.  He admits this, though, and that this Guyland phenomena only has the space (or money) to occur with these individuals.  That the threat to entitlement is not present for young minority men.  Second, these are observations he has had over the years (I believe about 30 years).  There is no systematic search for subjects.  He meets them seemingly randomly on campuses and sometimes they come to him.  This is not a way to get a representative sample and it is likely a way to guarantee a biased one.  If you meet your sample at random, you are likely to meet the friends of your first subjects and so on, giving you an inherently similar sample.  This does no invalidate the observations about this group, but it does preclude generalizing to a larger population. For example, they did not interview one nerdy guy!  Where were all the magic cards?

Overall, I do recommend this book.  It is a good introduction to a number of ideas, some of which ( especially the cultures of silence, protection and entitlement) have a huge effect on our society. Even the parts of the society that are not college educated white people.  You just have to keep in mind that these findings do not apply to all young men.

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About Tori

I am a graduate student working on my masters in Women and Gender studies. My masters thesis is on the gender nonconformity and ambiguity in modern film.
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One Response to Review: Guyland by Michael Kimmel

  1. Bear says:

    Despite the obvious potential for sampling error on his part and because of it on mine, I may need to read this, if only to see what he’s talking about. None of the things described in this review apply to any of my friends (at least those whom I knew well enough to be able to discern such things) from those days or now. Certainly these things do not apply to all American young men. There was considerable talk along these lines when I was in the Marine Corps (and I wondered how much was just that), but in civilian life I never saw it at all. As you mention, the author never talked to us nerds. Interesting.

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