Young men getting more sexist?

Esquire has apparent released a survey indicating that twenty-year-old men are more sexist than their fathers. The linked article offers some great analysis as to why this would be the case. The survey indicates:

  • While older men are okay with wives having careers and even being primary breadwinners while fathers stay home with the kids, younger men want the wife at home and the man earning the sole living. Care2 speculates this has to do with either being raised by single moms who had a tough time, or the terrible gender roles for women in the media, which have backslid in recent years. Yes, thank you, anyone else in the universe, for noticing.
  • Young men are less supportive of women’s rights to abortion. Care2 blames Bush’s abstinence-only “education” and the lies the far right has spewed forth about abortion in the last ten years.

Very good points – if you assume the survey is reliable. I don’t – primarily because I don’t know precisely how the questions were worded, nor how they assembled their polling group. Surveys can range from very useful to propaganda pieces, so who knows where this one falls.

But there’s another reason, and it’s that in my experience, many men are more sexist at twenty than they will be at thirty or forty. I believe there are several reasons for this:

  • Young men are pressured to prove their manhood by, among other things, showing a complete disregard for the humanity of women.
  • Because women are so Othered, it’s not that easy for a boy to discover that women are just plain human – unless someone teaches it to him. Boys left to figure it out for themselves often don’t do so until they’re over twenty years old.
  • While girls abused by men or rejected by boys are heavily pressured not to “hate all men”, boys abused by women or rejected by girls are encouraged to blame us all for it. Some of these boys eventually work out that not all women are like the ones who hurt him, but usually not until they’re well into their twenties.

Do you find the survey results credible/likely, based on your experience? If so, do you think it’s a generation thing or a youth thing?


  1. eesseed says

    I’m 21 and those results are not at all reflecting my own experience, which may be due in part to the fact I live in France. For instance, abortion is much more of a non-issue here. I actually don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say they wanted the wife at home and the man earning the sole living. Much much less a guy my age.

    “Young men are pressured to prove their manhood by, among other things, showing a complete disregard for the humanity of women.”
    That is true. Young men -even the feminist ones- slide very easily into sexist jokes and behaviour in some sort of male-bonding ritual. The more they are, the quicker it goes, and I’ve found that in such company often the girls just won’t be heard/listened to/will get cut off and will most likely end up talking among themselves.

    # Because women are so Othered, it’s not that easy for a boy to discover that women are just plain human – unless someone teaches it to him. Boys left to figure it out for themselves often don’t do so until they’re over twenty years old.
    I do agree that age factors into that, except that in my experience it doesn’t necessarily take that long. Before I got in highschool, most groups of friends were male-only and female-only. In highschool, A LOT if not most of them were mixed. (And not in a we’re-all-dating-each-other kinda way, but in a we’re-friends kinda way.)

    So yeah, I think it can be a youth thing; not so much a generational one, though. Admittedly, I don’t know that much about people in the US, but the numbers in that survey seem very suspicious to me. Last thing I heard about the american youth is that they were greatly important for Obama’s election.

    • Kayle says

      I’m thinking what you describe in your experience of as a product of French upbringing. I think French misogyny is sneakier and comes up less prominently, frequently, or stably because the sexual behavior taboo is lower. The increased societal freedom might be also be what allows for more mixed-gender friendships in adolescence and less “othering”. I wouldn’t be surprised if a survey was done that reflected even lower evidence of misogyny in Scandanavia, with France somewhere above it, but below still the US.

  2. Sabrina says

    Seeing as the differences in the survey are mostly just a few percentages I would agree that a big factor might be youth and naïveté here. Young men would have answered the questions from a perspective of what they want for their future while for the older generation it would be their past and/or present life. For all we know those 50-year-olds could have been even more conservative in their youth. I’d imagine that some of them might have changed their attitude over time.

    For example:
    If they were never married it isn’t surprising to see those young men having a more ‘idealistic’ version of marriage and their future where the husband has a great career and earns a lot of money so that his wife doesn’t need to go to work. They’d have a happy family with 2.5 kids and never need a divorce.
    But if you are entering reality and have made some experiences (maybe a marriage doesn’t work out as planned, maybe the job opportunities are just not there, maybe you simply feel you cannot care for a child yet…) things like divorce, being the bread winner and even considering an abortion suddenly appear in a very different light.

  3. Raeka says

    I guess I don’t have much to say, no hard examples to give, except that I find Jennifer’s reasons on why young men might be more sexist actually more convincing than those cited from the survey. I read a book recently called The Unfinished Revolution that was a study done of in-depth interviews with a number of young people from many family backgrounds, including single-mom ones –and from what I remember of the book, growing up in a single-parent household made you more likely to want a two-career household or a single-parent one yourself; but I don’t think it made anyone want to be either the sole earner OR entirely dependent.

    As for abortion, in my (inexperienced) opinion, I kind of think the increase in the number of young men willing to meddle in a woman’s personal affairs is more due to the history of seeing women as objects and/or incapable of rational decisions –an inability or unwillingness to ‘trust women’. Or a grab at controlling women (surely you all have heard the studies highlighting the disturbing practice of birth control sabotage).

    I also have to wonder how much the ‘gender roles’ can influence people to pick one side or another –I mean, Pro-Choice can be seen as ‘feminine’, accepting women and their decisions as mistakes, hard choices, you did everything right but were just that 1% unlucky chance… while Pro-Life kind of seems to coincide with a lot of the stereotypically ‘masculine’ traits –the patriarch laying out the rules of being ‘responsible’ and ‘good’, and using pregnancy as the ‘punishment’ of breaking them –and then, of course, all of these rules and punishment is aimed solely at women (not men!), doing the manly duty of sheparding us poor, confused, stupid women.

    …dunno if that entirely made sense. I only just thought of it.

  4. DragonLady says

    It’s not scientific by any stretch, but I do think my first reaction on reading this headline is somewhat telling: “Well, duh, who finally noticed?”

  5. anonymiss says

    So, I am a 19 year old male, and I think it seems pretty accurate to my experience. I blame popular science. The media blows up slight tendencies and unproven studies to be hugely important differences between men and women, and when these studies are proven untrue, or interpreted in a different fashion, the media is strangely absent…Most of the boys I have talked to end up justifying it by saying things like “I’m not sexist, but since men and women are about as smart as each other, and men are stronger, I am going to value men more, its only logical.”

    • says

      Wow, that last justification edges into ablism as well. Same logic that says that an able-bodied person is more valuable than a paraplegic because they can dance. I hope you set these guys straight.

      • Casey says

        Yeah, that last justification reminds me of the douche-bro humor of Tosh.0, such as when they showed a video of a girl speeding down the street on a skateboard. When she slips and falls, smacking her face on the concrete, Daniel Tosh launches into a long, long, looooooooooong “joke” about how this was merely an anomaly, and women really ARE equal to men…except they’re no good at running/jumping/lifting heavy things/driving/inventing anything of worth/earning equal pay/being politicians/taking out the garbage/playing sports that matter/being funny/being fun to hang out with/BEING TALL/doing straight-legged push-ups/etc. and so forth.
        It’s really irritating “riding the fence” humor, the kind that I GUESS is supposed to appeal to a poor beleaguered woman who deludes herself into thinking the media DOES understand we haven’t reached our feminist goals yet, so she can laugh at DAT DEPRECATION, but also her asshole boyfriend can laugh along un-ironically, because he really DOES think women are whiners with undeserved privileges simply because they can’t beat a man on average in an arm-wrestling contest.

        • Quib says

          ugh, hate that show. I might call it “riding the fence” joking if he weren’t so consistently awful, saying misogynist, homophobic, and racist things. He has, by far, the easiest job in television, and he’s an irritating d-bag doing it.

          I haven’t quite forced myself to sit through an entire episode, but from what I’ve seen, it doesn’t even feign irony.

          • Casey says

            I hate how blatantly hateful the show is because for the most part I enjoy his stand up; he actually does sarcasm/satire correctly in it (IE, satire has to aim UP to mock the oppressor class), although his “clown gets squeaky toys in breast implants as a tax write-off” joke having a line like “girls, if you’re an A-cup you’re not even a real woman!” is SUPPOSED to be like “OMG! I can’t believed he said that, I’ve been shocked into laughing at the inherent ridiculosity of his statement!” it’s really just bile.

            Apparently Tosh.0 is the most popular show on Comedy Central, it’s beating out Daily Show and Colbert Report.

  6. Sharon says

    Another big thing IMO about why 20 year old men say they’d want their wife to stay home is lack of financial knowledge. They might think their mam was selfish or whatever for working instead of being there for them 24/7, without realising that actually, without their mother’s income, their parents couldn’t afford the mortgage.

    I agree with the other points, and loved the topic! Good post!

  7. says

    Here’s another theory of mine:
    My little brother is in his early 20s, and has expressed some pretty alarming Madonna/Whore thoughts about his female peers. He was lamenting that he just wants to find a nice girlfriend, but the ones he finds are inevitably “sluts” who like to “party”.
    Not even counting the double standard Nice Guy stuff in there, it got me thinking. These young women now in their 20s came of age when the “empowerful sexxay feminism” was in full swing, as well as a backlash against that hairy old lesbian feminism of our foremothers’ era. These girls were taught that sex was their power; that patriarchal approval their goal as women. Is it any wonder the girls today are more heteronormative and “sexy” performing? And the boys like my brother eat it up, UNLESS it’s THEIR girlfriend doing it.
    I feel bad for young women now. They are being sold a terrible Catch 22. Slut shaming among the young crowd is waaaay more prevelent than in my crowd (I’m in my 30s). Also, the masculinity is waaay more anxious, with all the vicious gay jokes and behavior policing I see among my brother’s group of friends.

  8. Aine says

    Young men (late teens/early 20s) have a stronger sex drive than older men – and what with the internet, porn that makes out women are freely available and ‘gagging for it’ is much more readily available. This, along with images of sexualised women all over the media gives these young men a very strong sense of sexual entitlement, but in the Real World it turns out that pussy does not, in fact, come on tap.

    Not saying it’s the only reason, but a *huge* amount of the misogyny I’ve observed in young men has sexual frustration at the core of it. They are not getting the sex-on-demand the media led them to believe is their right.

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