Benign Neglect or Calculated Malignity?


Why, I wonder, do boys these days get no love? What have they done to deserve their treatment at our hands?

Recently, a boy competing for his high school in the Iowa state wrestling tournament chose to forfeit his initial match rather than wrestle against a girl. He spoke about his decision with an admirable reserve and good sense, saying that wrestling could be a violent sport, and that in this case he had to follow his conscience and his faith. He believed, in other words, exactly what in almost any other circumstances he would be taught as an absolute rule, and that is that a man is not to raise his hand in anger against a woman, and that he is not to touch a woman who is not his wife in the way that wrestling makes necessary — grabbing under the legs, pressing chest to chest, and worse.

And there are other considerations, harder to talk about, but ones that should have occurred to sensible people — should have, that is, if there were the slightest thought for the feelings of the boy in question. The boy would have been peculiarly vulnerable. The wrestling suit is skin tight. What if he should be aroused? What if he should hesitate to use certain holds, out of embarrassment — an embarrassment, I might add, which is natural and to be respected? Nor is the girl in exactly the same situation. She can only win, and he can only lose. If she loses and he wins, well, that is only what is “supposed” to happen, given that even before they grow tall and broad shouldered, boys are still usually stronger than girls. But if she wins, her name will be on all the sports pages across the state, as well as his.

We can say all day long that he should not feel humiliated, conveniently forgetting that it is not a man we’re talking about, but a boy, and one struggling, like all boys in the straits of puberty, to grow into his manhood, to become, wiser people would say, the sort of man who would take for granted that his duty is to protect women, not to pin them to the ground. That struggle is the more acute as the boy in question is small and light, wrestling at 112 pounds. What sport can a 112-pound boy play that would allow him to be an equal member of a team of his mostly bigger and heavier and stronger brothers? The one sport that affords him the best chance of it is wrestling. Why, then, should the smallish kid be placed in this predicament? Why do his feelings and his needs count for nothing?

But then, when was the last time anybody in charge of anything considered that boys actually have feelings and needs? I am thinking now of my own profession, teaching. Who make up most of the dropouts from our high schools? Boys. From our colleges? Boys. Is that because they are not bright? Not at all; often the dropouts are quite bright indeed. We don’t have many dropouts from my college, but still, I can speak of several bright young men who fell into the bad habits of college life, and whose college careers were ruined by them. So do we take any special measures to see to their needs? Hell no.

Now then, there’s a great reward in teaching boys and young men. They are often quirky; they have a relatively low tolerance for academic pinky-extending and other matters of pointless etiquette; they will sometimes challenge their professors in a gruff way; and, more likely than that, they will simply ignore professors who do not win their respect, cutting the classes and settling for poor grades rather than playing along with the game. I’m perfectly aware that such behavior is often mixed up with a good deal of stubbornness, sloth, and self-justification. Yet I am also perfectly aware that it is a teacher’s job to win those students over. I recall, for example, one of the brightest students I have ever met, a young man who transferred to our college and whom I would find absorbed in a novel by Dostoyevsky or Kafka in the few minutes before our class started. I and my colleagues in the team-taught course noticed this, and paid him the attention he required. And at least some of what he required was vigorous conversation with other men.

I am not saying that women cannot teach young men. They can. Or rather, many of them can; and one can usually tell pretty readily who those many are. They are those who enjoy the company of boys and young men, who forgive their foibles and who admire their strengths, and who do not try to play the drill sergeant over them, as demanding as they may be when it comes to work. I have several of my women colleagues in mind as I write this, and I can happily say that young men are drawn to them, feel grateful for their letting them be men, and treat them with some of the same mingled admiration, obedience, and, strange to say, protectiveness, with which they would treat a beloved older sister. It is a most heartening thing to see.

That said, there are many women, and some men, who are not particularly good at this task. And it is a peculiar task. The maturing of a boy is not the same as the maturing of a girl. The boy must, to establish his separate masculine identity, free himself in many ways from his emotional dependence upon his mother, the person in the world whom he loves the best. He must change from the little boy whom his mother protects to the man who will protect his mother, and who will provide for and protect the mother of his children. So it is that boys, if they are allowed to develop in a healthy and natural way, will spend years of separation from girls, especially during the time of sexual latency but also, in part, for some years afterwards, winning their masculine stripes from their fellows — and, what is both obvious in every culture and yet now almost universally ignored, developing intellectually from the challenges they impose upon one another. This development is to the benefit of everyone, not simply the young men, but also the women they will marry and the children they will raise and the neighbors among whom they will live.

So then, one would suppose that the capacity to inspire young men, or at least to get some decent work from them, would form part of a candidate’s qualifications for teaching at high schools and colleges. One would suppose in vain. If, as happens, a male teacher is not good at attracting female students to his courses, that is his problem; but if, as happens somewhat more frequently, a female teacher is not good at attracting male students to her courses, that is their problem. I have been teaching at the university level for more than a quarter century now, and I can say with confidence that the sorts of men who put women off, by being gruff and aggressive and imperious, do not usually get hired in the first place, not at schools that take teaching seriously; but that the sorts of women who put men off by their chip-on-shoulder feminism, or who simply do not inspire men to what I call deeds of followership, are hired all the time, and again, if they prove signally unable to get good work from young men, that failure is never held against them. The boys are to blame.


Is the Church aware of this neglect? In a word, no. Let me give an example. The Church rightly holds the line against homosexual pseudogamy, for a host of perfectly just reasons that have to do with the limits of state authority, the nature of our bodies, the virtue of chastity, and the divinely ordained orientation of manhood for womanhood and womanhood for manhood. Yet it hasn’t occurred to anyone to ask, “What does the public acceptance and the visibility of male homosexuality do to the friendships of boys and young men? What does it do to those males who are fighting to establish their masculinity?”

I propose a thought experiment. Let us suppose that a father could do something simple to ensure that his son would grow up to be intelligent, successful, well-adjusted, and prosperous. Would not a responsible father do this thing, without a second thought? Well, there is no such thing. But let us change the terms of the problem. Suppose there is something he could do, something simple enough, to ensure — barring the bizarre and unforeseen tragedy of a rape — that his son would grow up to be confident in his masculinity, comfortable in his skin, easygoing around other men, attracted to women and attractive to them in turn. Would he not do this simple thing? Of course he would; not because he is a bigot, but because such a development for his son would be a great and beautiful thing. He would want for him that great good, nor would he apologize a moment for wanting it. Indeed he would be derelict in his duty if he did not want it, or if he acted so as to make it more difficult for his son to achieve.

As it turns out, there are things the father can do to help his son attain that strong manhood. But that is not my point. What about the boys whose fathers are absent, or negligent, or cruel? Or the boys who have decent fathers, but whose relationships with those fathers are, because of the vagaries of personality and interests, a little difficult or distant? What about the boys who are not coordinated well for sports, not good looking, not early bloomers? These boys too need our assistance in negotiating the straits of puberty and becoming strong men, capable of marrying and of raising children. So what help do we give them? That is easy to answer. No help at all. Instead, for them and for those who may be more confused still, we hold out the possibility that they may be destined for homosexual relationships, whose behaviors corrupt the boy’s need to be affirmed by other males, pervert the natural uses of sex, and subject the practitioners to a host of diseases of both body and soul. About those boys, the Church has nothing to say.

Why not? Again, what have they done to warrant this treatment? Are they responsible for the idiocies of the sexual revolution now nearly 50 years old? Of course not; and yet we persist in the obviously absurd conviction that somehow that sexual revolution has been to their benefit, when a glance at our prisons should suffice to show that it is not so.

St. John Bosco, pray for us.

Anthony Esolen


Professor Esolen is a teaching fellow and writer in residence at Thomas More College of the Liberal Arts, in Merrimack, New Hampshire. Dr. Esolen is a regular contributor to Crisis Magazine and the author of many books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Regnery Press, 2008); Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI Books, 2010) and Reflections on the Christian Life (Sophia Institute Press, 2013). His most recent books are Reclaiming Catholic Social Teaching (Sophia Institute Press, 2014); Defending Marriage (Tan Books, 2014); Life Under Compulsion (ISI Books, 2015); and Out of the Ashes (Regnery, 2017).

  • Deacon Ed

    Such keen insight into the human condition!

    Dr. Esolen, I would encourage you to make some proposals of how the Church might rectify this imbalance in meeting the needs of our young Catholic men. For, if the Church does not propose some solutions, boys are abandoned to the dominant secular (and sinful) culture.

  • Cassandra

    My five-year-old son told me this morning that he no longer likes kisses or hugs. I felt a little sad, but your article helped me appreciate that this is part of the maturation process . Thank goodness I still have a very cuddly six-month-old son. And maybe it’s time to start thinking about another replacement after this one grows up, too. smilies/wink.gif

  • Anon

    “As it turns out, there are things the father can do to help his son attain that strong manhood”

    Please let us know these things! I struggled with this and am worried I will subject my sons to the same fate of never feeling like a man.

    Any help would be appreciated.

  • Frank

    Saturday is the Feast of St. Joseph, model for all men. St. Joseph, pray for us!

    Dr. Esolen, thank you!

  • Dan Deeny

    The wrestler from Iowa is a fine young man. A real gentleman. Very well done.

  • Bob G

    Dr. Esolen writes common sense in excellent prose.

    The “Church” (mainly popes) still teaches a few things about sex and “gender,” especially that celibacy is OK and men and women are not identical. But that’s now about as far as it goes. Probably the sex-abuse scandal is linked to this deficit. If it wasn’t at all obvious to bishops that sexual-abuse of children by priests was radically wrong, what could they have known about the issues Dr. Esolen discusses? The wider culture has disintegrated but Catholics seem helpless to mount a counter-attack. One just hopes that there are still enough men around capable of doing for boys what Dr. Esolen proposes.

  • sibyl

    We desperately need this discussion. As a mother, I am at a remove from this issue, but I offer the following ideas, hoping to be corrected or given better from the dads out there:

    Support boys’ only education and activities — birthday parties, musical groups, sports teams, service clubs, camps, etc, and be VERY careful to find good men to staff these. The Boy Scouts seems to be the organization that still remembers how to do this.

    Find something that helps the family that the boy can do when he “comes of age” at 13 or 14 — something that you talk about his being old enough and smart enough to do, something with some real responsibility and risk, in which his mom has no part whatsoever. Dad (or wise older brother or uncle, whoever) is the resource. This could be budgeting, house repair, even car repair, or once-a-week grilling, including building the fire and choosing what kind of meat. There should be no criticism or direction for him unless he asks. It should be ongoing, and maybe even have several levels of responsibility depending on how he does with the first level.

    Mom should also make it clear that while she is still in charge, he is much more independent unless he proves himself unable or unwilling to take care of himself.

  • Fr. Vincent Fitzpatrick

    I would urge Catholic men to investigate the ManKind Project, as many already have for many years. It is a secular movement, now unfortunately somewhat corrupted from the top down with “multiculturalism,” from which men can learn a great deal about becoming a man. I say “from the top down” because the cultural Marxism embraced by the current national leadership is not intrinsic to the original purpose or activities of the group, and does not permeate everything MKP does, and can be filtered out by any well-informed Catholic. As an Episcopal priest said to me once, during a “Warrior Weekend,” “This should be happening in the churches, but it isn’t.”


    Forget about the false concept of “equality between the sexes”.
    There is no such thing and the entire idea is bogus.

    This is because form follows function, and function follows form.
    Women are to be pleasing their husbands in any way they can, and focus on that alone.

    Women should never forget that they were created as a helper and a consort to Adam.
    Not his equal.

    So forget about the whole idea. The Hyenas have “equality” between the sexes.
    With the result that over the generations, female hyenas have evolved false male genitalia.

    This they have done, as a sign of rememberance to mankind, so that mankind shall never pursue “equality” between the sexes.

    Because form follows function.
    “Equality” between the sexes is the first step towards evolving into hermafrodites.

    So let it go, and send your women back into the kitchen to fix you a snack, and worship God allmighty who has created women for your enjoyment.

    So says I, Gabriel.

    Messenger of G-D.

  • Tony Esolen

    Dear People,

    I am deeply grateful for your kind responses, and I second the good suggestions that have already been made by Sibyl and others.

    In some ways, for a man to raise a boy to be a confident and well-adjusted man is the easiest thing in the world, because he knows in his heart precisely what is to be done. In other ways, it is hard — not because there are long odds, but because the boy’s masculine life always involves some element of risk. That said, here are a few suggestions, from what I’ve experienced and what I’ve observed. I’m speaking to fathers here, since Anon has asked me particularly to respond.

    If your son enjoys sports, play them with him, or get together a couple of boys and a couple of dads, to play. They don’t have to be the same age, and it sure doesn’t have to be organized. And it DOESN’T have to be some kind of test. Keep score, by all means — boys grow bored otherwise. But the idea is to have physical fun. Some of the fathers and the boys in our homeschooling organization used to get together every Saturday for tackle football. That’s right, tackle, with rules for first downs and so on, and snacks and drinks afterwards (and prayer before and after). The boys loved it. You don’t have to worry that the younger boys will get run over, because the kids make allowances for their smaller fellows.

    But if your son doesn’t care for sports, or isn’t very good at them, that is not a big deal. Not at all. There are all kinds of things, physical things, that boys do that have nothing to do with chasing a ball up and down a field. Go swimming — meaning go to the nearby pond or lake and do stupid things in the water. Again, you can do this as a family, but sometimes it’s great just to take your son or sons, or your son and a nephew and a couple of friends, or another father and his sons, and so forth. Go for a hike, and take food along in a backpack. Take hot dogs along to cook over a fire. Go climb a mountain. Go do outdoors things, physical things.

    In general, help him be comfortable about his body. A friend of mine, who grew up with a slew of brothers and sisters, says that once in a while his father and he and his brothers would go stay at their camphouse in the woods, nobody else around, and there they would do things outside all day, and when they felt like it they would jump off the dock into the swimming hole, swimsuits not included. That sort of thing should just be matter-of-fact, not a big deal, nothing special.

    Of course you don’t have to be outside all the time. The point is that you affirm your son’s masculinity, without having to trumpet it, and that you show your love for him in physical ways — play, a cuff around the neck, a slap on the back, and so on. When I see boys who are treated in this way by their fathers, I know — again, barring something bizarre, like a rape — that they will grow up to feel healthy about their being male. They will not feel that compulsive need for male affirmation that becomes sexualized in certain men.

    I’ve recently been the object of some sneering for my support of a “Tom Sawyer boyhood.” I’ll make no apologies for that. Lots of boys used to have something like a Tom Sawyer boyhood. Even a shadow of that would be a great thing. And Mark Twain is careful to point out to us that in later life Tom became quite the stable and reliable pillar of his community. The Boy Scouts still know this — I hope.

  • Leo Ladenson

    Very powerful. I couldn’t concur more strongly that the public acceptance of homosexuality has these two profoundly deleterious effects: the tainting of male friendship and the abandonment of some confused but salvable young men.


    Forget about the false concept of “equality between the sexes”. There is no such thing and the entire idea is bogus. This is because form follows function, and function follows form. Women are to be pleasing their husbands in any way they can, and focus on that alone. Women should never forget that they were created as a helper and a consort to Adam. Not his equal. So forget about the whole idea. The Hyenas have “equality” between the sexes. With the result that over the generations, female hyenas have evolved false male genitalia. This they have done, as a sign of rememberance to mankind, so that mankind shall never pursue “equality” between the sexes. Because form follows function. “Equality” between the sexes is the first step towards evolving into hermafrodites. So let it go, and send your women back into the kitchen to fix you a snack, and worship God allmighty who has created women for your enjoyment. So says I, Gabriel. Messenger of G-D.

    And if you have any problems with this, try to rebuke me, instead of silencing me, you utter cowards and hypocrites. The Lord as you very well know, HATES hypocrites.

  • Scott W


    Thanks for the reminder that there has been a diabolic war in the last fifty years against the feminine AND masculine. The plight of girls is often more obvious to observe…

    As a large, masculine man in academia (political philosophy), I progressively feminized myself in voice, hand gestures–so much so that people often assumed I was gay. I did this unconsciously, and it certainly helped my job prospects. I had one department head confess with relief after visiting my class that he had mistakenly feared that my physical presence (I played rugby for 12 years) would intimidate my students. My de-masculinization had become so complete and yet unknown to me since it was gradual, that I was shocked the day I watched a video of myself at an academic conference. I had become a stranger to myself in more ways than one.

  • Anna

    I’ve wondered about this lately, as I have both a husband and a young son. Husband has talked about exactly this problem in his schooling growing up, the general sense (usually unspoken, though sometimes explicit) that by succeeding academically the boys were in some way pushing the girls down. We are homeschoolers, so I hope that won’t be an issue for my son.
    But along with wondering how to foster manhood in my son, I wonder how to foster brotherhood/friendships among men. It’s rather astonishing to me: Lewis, Chesterton, any writers of that and all previous generations talk about male friendship, conversations, arguments, etc. – and that seems to have almost entirely disappeared. Women are the ones supposed to converse about any and all topics, especially arts and literature, and men are supposed to merely grunt or discuss only sports teams or video games. Roles seem to have reversed completely; where once women were supposed incapable of intellectual conversation, now men are the ones forbidden to think too deeply. How to balance this rather than just accept the pendulum swing?


    To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. YOUR DESIRE WILL BE FOR YOUR HUSBAND. AND HE WILL RULE OVER YOU”

    Was there anything else Anthony?
    Cute trick with the blocking of the IP-adress by the way. Very manly of you.

  • Bob G

    I was fortunate to have something like that, and not far from where Tony Esolen grew up. Endless miles of woods, ponds, fields to explore. Wildlife everywhere. Bird watching at 4 AM. Lots of camping, lots of sports, yet we socialized with girls, who in general were not shy. They were distinctively feminine yet usually tough as nails, and they got respect. This has all aided my adulthood immensely. I would not trade with today’s kids for a million dollars. And I can’t help feeling superior to the academic male I encounter today–a solemn wimp.

  • Cassandra

    Anna, you might enjoy this article on the subject of male friendship:

  • Mrs. F

    Does it seem that rural areas might have a bit of an edge on this? I think there is something very healthy about the outdoors–hiking or camping, or hunting and fishing, or just mucking about in the local crick. It seems to go double for boys. The area where I live is still very agricultural, so many of the boys and young men participate in 4-H livestock, compete in the rodeo, learn to handle firearms and join shooting clubs, etc. Much of this, I suspect, is difficult or impossible for the family living in the middle of a large city.

  • Tony Esolen

    Mrs. F, you are quite right.

    One thing the homosexual activists want to bury: the same-sex attraction syndrome is a great deal more prevalent among boys in cities than in rural areas. The obvious reason is that boys in rural areas get to do a lot of boyish things outdoors with relatively little supervision from adults; another reason is that boys in rural areas still do a lot of boyish work, around the farm for instance.

    Bob, when I think of the harried lives of kids these days, I want to weep …

  • Bob G

    We played lots of sports but adults generally paid no attention. Sandlot baseball, basketball in the park–nobody but us cared who won or lost and we hardly cared either. The CYO had a basketball league, so we needed coaches for that, and sometimes even parents came to the games, but if we lost, no one wept, much less cursed the coach. On hallowe’en night we stayed out til 1AM, went miles from home with another kid or two, and never got razor blades in the apples. The worst aspect of kid sports today is the organization, the pressure on parents to attend or look indifferent, and the premium on winning. All a huge bore and waste of time.

  • Anna

    Roles have changed. Men and women work together today as equals. They parent as equals. Our children grow up very differently today. We’ve all heard Wellington’s claim that “Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton.” A cohort of young people — all male, all or almost all C of E, white, upper class, and well-connected with the “right people” — was taught through games and sports played on Eton’s fields to support one another, to work together in teams, and to treat others like them with respect and partiality. And it worked pretty well for that homogenous little group. The American boys’ equivalent of jumping into lakes in the buff or “doing physical things” might teach our sons to relate to a small group of other boys with like-minded fathers, but our sons today need much more than that. They need to learn to relate to people who are different, even very different, from themselves — girls, people from different cultures and nations, people with very different religions and belief systems. Professionalism has transcended old male/female roles. Our sons are likely to have women managers at some point. They’re likely to work with women who are better qualified than they are and who have more expertise. They may have openly gay co-workers on the team. The good, ole boys, “no gurlz allowed” physical culture is not going to help them. They’re not going to get any free points in the modern workplace or classroom for being male, and no amount of boyhood skinny dipping is going to change that. If they’re concerned about their masculinity, that’s an issue they’ll have to sort out, but they’re not going to be allowed artificial dominance out of respect for the frailty of their egos. I don’t think there’s anything cruel about this. This is the reality of our culture today. It’s a lot fairer and more meritocratic than cultures of the past. The best we can do is to teach our sons AND daughters to cope with it graciously.

  • Kamilla

    Methinks Anna has rather deliberately missed the point.

  • Tihamer Toth-Fejel

    Everything written above regarding the fallout of the sexual revolution and it’s impact on young men is true.

    That being said, since I’ve wrestled quite a few women myself, some of them good enough to make national teams (but skills alone are no match for skills and upper body strength :-)), and since my oldest daughter wrestled rather successfully, I have been thinking about this issue for quite some time. Some of my points below apply to boys wrestling girls, and some apply to girls wrestling each other.

    Pro: Girls can gain the benefits of every sport: learning self-discipline and good sportsmanship, having fun, learning teamwork, building self-esteem, and (in the words of Theodore Roosevelt):

    “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best, knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

    (Note that in Theodore’s era, the words “man”, “he”, and “him” were understood to usually refer to both sexes, while “woman”, “she”, and “her”, referred only to females.)

    Pro: A female wrestler will be better able to defend herself in today’s increasingly violent world. Against a rapist who waits in the dark, wrestling might help a little — I was mugged in front of my apartment (unsuccessfully) when I was a wrestling coach at Notre Dame. However, against an armed person, knowing some wrestling skills might even be a detriment. Against a date rapist, wrestling might be more useful, though I know two men who were date raped — in both cases, physical strength was not the issue, but weak boundaries and an overwhelming need to please. In all these cases, a course like Model Mugging might be better.

    Pro: For fear of getting beaten up, my daughter’s classmates no longer teased her for being a goody two-shoes, a straight “A” student, and a teacher’s pet. I talked to one of her teammates about this — about how I agreed that my daughter’s wrestling seemed incongruous with her strong faith in God and her shy and sugar-sweet demeanor. I want her to be a saint, but I know that saints are not just nice. They have to be tough as nails to withstand the slings and arrows of the principalities not of this world. Mother Teresa is known as a loving person, but those who knew her well knew also that she had a will of iron, a will entirely submitted only to doing the will of God.

    The flip side of this is that she might have learned that violence and power is a morally acceptable solution. The inhabitants of Carthage aren’t around to claim that it isn’t, and it is not clear that Ghandi’s non-violent methods would have worked against the Nazis. Over the centuries, the Catholic Church developed the idea of a “just war”, parts of which have been encoded in the Geneva Conventions on War — the idea is that there are situations in which using force is moral and possibly even required. Not that the ordinary wrestling coach is going to discuss this with his wrestlers (well, I did, both at Notre Dame and Stanford, but I’m abby somebody 🙂 )

  • Tihamer Toth-Fejel

    Con: If a girl is successful at her sport, then the concomitant fame and glory may corrupt her. But this is true in every sport, and for both genders, and points to our societie’s near-worship of sports (As my opponent from the Christian group Athletes in Action taught me, false gods make false promises). That is an entire topic in itself.

    Con: Once they get to middle school, female wrestlers and their male teammates will be affected by the unavoidable physical intimacy. In my experience with coed judo, ju-jitsu, and wrestling, I can say with certainty that I was able to put sexuality out of my mind while in the practice room. In the heat of competition and focused attention, I just concentrated on putting my opponent’s body where it didn’t want to go. At the same time, and again I can say this from personal experience, the time spent in the practice room can build a hidden sexual tension — which can be an extremely powerful force if accidentally released outside that special context. Being married to your teammate, as some figure skaters are, would be absolutely heaven. However, dating a teammate would be asking for a ton of trouble — unless both are as innocent as doves, or at least one (but preferably both) has a will and a moral character made of steel.

    Con: Is it good for a woman to learn violence? In the C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, one of the heroines receives a bow and arrows, but is instructed that she is not to use them except in dire cases of extreme plight. Lewis was clear that fighting is not to be done by women. Why? Heinlein’s Starship Troopers was rewritten in the movie to include female infantry, but from his other writings, I suspect that he would have disapproved. Can an army fight as effectively when it is coed? What is the long range effect of having women die in combat? The jury is still out on that one, but I have my opinions about the eventual result. Hint: The women from Sparta were as tough as nails, but they did not fight in battle. Think of it as evolution in action.

    Con: Are women supposed to be aggressive? I know my daughter had a difficult time psyching herself up to get aggressive–the way she did it was to imagine herself as a mother bear defending her cubs. It worked. A year later, during the first class for confirmation preparation, she was put in a small group for an “ice-breaker”, and one of the boys remarked, “You don’t remember me, do you?” She apologized. He then added, “I remember you because I wrestled you last year and you pinned me.” Then she apologized profusely. 🙂

    Yes, I was very proud of her accomplishments, but as is obvious above, I’m conflicted about the subject, not just for the deep and overriding reasons that Esolen brings up.

    One last thing: At the city tournament at the end of the season, I watched Sara, one of my daughter’s former opponents, wrestle a boy and get ripped to shreds. It disturbed me deeply. It wasn’t just that I wanted Sara to win and she was losing so badly — it was the idea of a boy beating up on a girl — there is something just *wrong* about the crowd sitting around and watching it–it went against my deep instincts to protect women from aggression.

  • Deacon Ed

    is to get a very clear idea about what it means to be a man – which he is to become. Related to this is a concomitantly clear idea of what it means to be a woman – which he is NOT to become. That’s diversity – not an egalitarian notion of a neuterized genderization of the human person.

    I might also suggest that those interested might become familiar with the work of Regnum Christi and its Conquest Clubs for boys in helping them develop into good Christian men. Taking a look at their website might provide some useful ideas for parents to consider:

  • Anna

    Deacon Ed, limiting human roles to merely two is probably why so many people are uncomfortable or self-conscious about their sexuality. What does it mean to be “a man” or “a woman”? There are as many answers as there are men and women in the world.

  • Deacon Ed

    I take Scripture as face value: “Male and female he created them” -God

    I would recommend a book on the natural law entitled “What You Can’t Not Know.” Men and women have written on their hearts and wired into their creation a true sense of what it means to be a male person and a female person. Admittedly, the effects of original sin are such that there are distortions from God’s creation before the Fall.

  • Deacon Ed

    Also, male and female are at the core of what it means to be a human person. We are human persons as males and human persons as females.
    “Roles” are an altogether different matter and do not pertain to our ontology.

  • Tony Esolen

    The American Association of University Women rather abruptly reversed their position, in the early 1990’s, on single sex education. I think I know why. Coeducation actually isn’t very good for either sex, but it is worse for boys than it is for girls — though for a long time people thought that the reverse was true. The converse is that single-sex education is good for both sexes, but a lot better for boys than for girls. Some confirmation of this fact can be seen by what happens to boys when they are homeschooled — essentially when they are taken away from the deleterious effects of warehouse coed schooling.

    I do not see why, just because men have to work among women, BOYS should have to be subjected to things that are provably detrimental to their emotional and intellectual development. I do not see how this is charitable, and I do not see how it serves the common good. Of course, I also do not see how the professionalization of all forms of modern life serves the common good, either.

    By the way, I am in a position to see the effects of single sex education, and homeschooling. I’ve been an officer in one of our state homeschooling organizations for fourteen years, president for seven. And I teach freshmen at college, in a huge western civilization program at our school — so every year for the last 20 I have seen 100-200 freshmen daily. We get quite a few students at our school from boys’ high schools like St John’s Prep, Xaverian, The Heights, and others. I can almost always tell who they are. And in all my years of asking the question — which I do all the time — only ONE such student has told me that he wished his high school had been co-ed. ONE. That would be less than one percent of everyone I’ve asked …

    The question is really simple enough. Do we want to do for the boys what will work, what will actually get them interested in literature or science or whatnot, and what will make them responsible fathers and husbands, or will we just say to them, “Hey, these are the ropes, this is the world you’re in, and if you don’t like it, that’s too damned bad”?

  • Kathryn

    try Tae Kwon Do.

    Girls and boys may compete against each other at the younger ages, but not so much as they get older–once they get teens. I’ve never seen a male vs female bout except at class, and then it is sparing, not competing. At the competitions I’ve been to, I’ve never seen a man vs a woman.

  • Anna

    Thanks, Cassandra, for the link; it is an excellent article! And, just to be clear, there are two Annas posting here… I’m the one who thinks the article is outstanding.

  • Anna

    I’m the “other Anna”:-) Deacon Ed, yes, he created them male and female, but it’s not quite so simple. He also created them intersex, not to mention extrovert and introvert, bright and dull, meek and proud, straight and gay, tall and short, weak and strong, calm and boisterous … In short, he created them with a spectrum of interests, abilities, qualities, attributes, and sexualities. There are thousands of characteristics that define us, not just two.

    Tony Esolen, the studies on single sex versus co-ed education are not well randomized and do not have particularly good statistical controls. The differences in academic scores may be explained by the fact that some of the studies involve private schooling without controlling for SES. In any case, the point will eventually become moot as education becomes increasingly individualized.

    I don’t believe that “boys get no love” or that we’re subjecting them to cruelty or neglect. I doubt that either boys or girls have ever been treated as well as they are today. Look at the reaction to the sex abuse crisis as an example. Tremendous concern was shown for the mostly male (because mostly in all-male settings) victims. I know people who wept when they heard what those boys had suffered. 100 years ago, the boys would have been expected to keep silence to avoid embarrassing the institution, or they would have been afraid to speak out for fear of blame. The young boy who refused to wrestle a girl has been the subject of tremendous sympathy and praise. On a more positive note, neither boys nor girls have ever been treated so well or been given so much or had so many opportunities as they have today. My children today have freedoms and opportunities that my husband and I never had. They are treated better by their teachers and other adults than most people of my generation ever were. I think they’re happier, wiser, freer, more evolved, kinder, more thoughtful, and better educated than we were. I have great faith in the rising generation.

  • Manny

    What an excellent piece, and I agree with it totally. And that young wrestler is more mature than most adult men.

  • Carl


  • Carl


  • Tihamer Toth-Fejel

    Wrestling is *not* fighting without throwing a punch. It’s more like physical chess – every move has a counter-move, and if pick the wrong one, you lose. For example, a few weeks after placing at NCAA Nationals, I went back to my judo club and sparred with one of my female dorm-mates, a gymnast. She had been working on her choke holds for the past few months, and I carelessly let her get one on me (choke holds are illegal in wrestling, so I wasn’t used to them) — I had to tap out (surrender) when everything turned purple. In judo you’re also allowed to force elbows, wrists, and knees against their joints, so in some ways it’s much more violent than wrestling–though judo has been so ritualized that the violence isn’t as obvious.

    Wrestling is indeed tough. But life is tough too, so wrestling is good preparation for it, even if you’re the smallest and scrawniest runt in your jr. high school (which I was when I started). Sure, broken bones are possible, and I’ve had my share and given my share of injuries (including concussions, ripped shoulders and knees, split eyebrows, etc), but wrestling is not nearly as dangerous as football, where people are running at each other. For girls, even cheerleading is significantly more dangerous (2.68 catastrophic injuries for every 100,000 female cheerleaders; wrestlers have less than one catastrophic injury per 100,000 participants).

    I wear my cauliflower ears with pride, and if my wife had them, I’d love her just as much, if not more. I’m sure that would be the case for the husband of a friend of mine who wrestled on the U.S. Marine’s national team (except she always wore ear protectors).

    Having wrestled long enough to qualify for four consecutive Olympic Trials, I can probably truthfully claim that I’ve been in more matches than you’ve seen, Carl, and I’ve never seen *anyone* lose a tooth while wrestling.

    Speaking of gruesome, bloody, and painful experience, Carl, have you ever seen a woman give birth to a child? A woman who is tough enough to do that should be the girl of your dreams, I would think.

  • Bob G

    Anna # 1 is unconvincing. She has bought all of the diversity and multi-cultural nonsense::

    “The young boy who refused to wrestle a girl has been the subject of tremendous sympathy and praise.” Yes, as a counterpoint to the mindless pressure and conformity that got him into his predicament and that Anna would approve.

    “They [today’s boys and girls] are treated better by their teachers and other adults than most people of my generation ever were.” Oh, hogwash. Anna’s generation probably wasn’t submitted to the cant imposed on kids today. I’d match my teachers against any.

  • Anna

    Bob G, can you explain your problem with multiculturalism and diversity? Demographics are changing. Is this a problem for you?

  • Deacon Ed

    grandchild will be a mix of Irish, German, Polish, English, and Filipino backgrounds. If that’s not diveristy and multi-cultural, nothing is. This latest call to arms from the progressives is nothing new under the sun and is a pretext for rampant permissiveness for moral relativism under the rubric of “diversity.”

  • Anna

    Deacon Ed, I don’t see this myself. I see gracious handling of multiculturalism and diversity as key to avoiding conflict. I don’t see permissiveness as part of this. Nazism, which allowed for bullying and murder of the “racially impure” was the ultimate in moral relativism (as in “‘we’ have rights ‘they’ don’t have.”)

  • Carl

    Examples of possible Coed sports:

    It’s real simple. A man’s hand should NEVER raise to harm a female.

    It was Adam’s job to protect Eve. Original sin.

    Discussion closed.

  • Carl


    Any no holds bar fight will include any combination techniques to subdue an opponent—including wrestling maneuvers. One has only to view Ultimate Fight Club matches.

    When the opposing team member mentioned above had is forearm snapped into an L shape the sound echoed throughout the gym and then silence prevailed in a previously noisy gymnasium. The idea of wrestling a girl for sport and causing possibly permanent physical injuries I find repulsive.

    Head injuries are the number one wrestling injury. Accidental head buts occur all the time; OK, busted teeth may not be that common, but any head injury is the most common.

    I see no honor in this.

  • Susan

    I see a similarity between girl wrestlers and altar girls. Both are horning in on male domains, not only demeaning their own sex, but also shutting out the males from traditional pursuits. My boys are less attracted to altar serving, and therefore less likely to see the priesthood up close, as a result. Meanwhile the girls are conditioned to hanker for that “glass ceiling” adult role at the altar. Who could blame them? As George Gilder put it, just because a woman *can* do something, doesn’t mean she *should* do something. Instead, Moms should be encouraging the development of mothering skills for these girls, a vocation in great need of real women.

  • marmal

    Don’t have boys myself but check out Doug Barry’s (of EWTN’s Life on the Rock fame) website:

  • Anon

    When I went off to the seminary, I used to call home a couple times a week and tell my parents that I loved them before hanging up. I’d almost always end the call with my father. “I love you, dad,” I’d say. One day, my mother called me and said, “you have to stop telling your dad that you love him. He thinks you’re gay.” “Well, I’m not, but I won’t stop telling him I love him.” I didn’t stop. Today, 9 times out of 10, my dad tells me first that he loves me.

    Incidentally, I didn’t end up staying at the seminary. I’m happily married with two kids (and many more to come, Deo volente!).

    There is indeed a terrible image of masculinity today. All these things that young men think add up to homosexuality. How many young men think they’re gay because they have a sense of style, know how to cook, use manners, treat women with respect, love their mothers (or fathers), or even have a speech disorder? How many young men are confused about their sexual desires? I suspect many young men think they’re gay because they get aroused in the locker room or something, when really it’s just the general thought of sex, not of men, that arouses them. How many young men have had this happen? How many young men have been told they are gay and even encouraged by friends, counselors, medical professionals, teachers, and the media to experiment, locking themselves into a pattern of thinking and a path of habitual sin that will “prove” to them that they are gay?

  • Cassianus

    One of the main reasons for the attack on boys, especially in the educational/academic world, is a pervasive hatred of men. For surely this lies at the root of much of our culture today. And boys, of course, are future men. The forces in our world who hate men know that’s it’s much easier to get at them when they are young and vulnerable.

    No culture whose men have been defeated has ever lasted very long in this world. In the past, this defeat was usually accomplished by outsiders, by military attack and the destruction of the strongest males. Now, we are undermining our own male leadership from within – within our nation and our culture, but sadly, in may ways, from within the church as well. For as a human institution even the Church is also at times a carrier of the same pathologies that afflict the cultures in which it is embedded.

    To add to the many excellent and necessary sports/outdoors suggestions mentioned in this comment thread, I think it’s also important to appeal to the imaginations of young boys through literature and great books. This is especially important, I think, given that many of the books that are assigned in schools today are either subtly or openly part of the effort to undermine true masculinity.

    Boys need to read stories about boys and about men who use their intelligence, their bravery, and their faith to face the world heroically and do the right thing in the face of adversity. Some ideas to get started:

    The Encyclopedia Brown series by Donald Sobol
    The Johnny Dixon and Anthony Monday mystery series by John Bellairs
    The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
    The Horatio Hornblower series by C.S. Forester
    Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island and Kidnapped
    Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling
    The Once and Future King by T.H. White
    Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings
    A Distant Trumpet by Paul Horgan
    Louis L’Amour – just about any of the Westerns, and his excellent medieval adventure The Walking Drum