Over the past 30 years, the grip strength of men, aged 20-34, has decreased – down from an average of 117 pounds of force in 1985 to 98 pounds of force among today’s young men. For those inclined to valorize traditional definitions of masculinity, this could be seen as another sign pointing to the death of men. In fact, David French, writing at the National Review, bemoans just this point. French argues that the decline in grip strength signifies the continued distancing between men and their masculinity.
To quote French: “Our culture strips its young men of their created purpose and then wonders why they struggle. …Men were meant to be strong. Yet we excuse and enable their weakness. It’s but one marker of cultural decay, to be sure, but it’s a telling marker indeed. There is no virtue in physical decline.” [emphasis in original]
To get a sense of how our decaying culture looks, French provides this summary: “If you’re the average Millennial male, your dad is stronger than you are. In fact, you may not be stronger than the average Millennial female. You’re exactly the kind of person who in generations past had your milk money confiscated every day — who got swirlied in the middle-school bathroom. The very idea of manual labor is alien to you, and even if you were asked to help, say, build a back porch, the task would exhaust you to the point of uselessness. Welcome to the new, post-masculine reality.”
An unstated implication of this seems to be that kids no longer steal each other’s milk money nor give the wimpy kids swirlies. Perhaps this is a sign of the decay of our culture, but I’d call that progress. In fairness, I doubt French would consider a decrease in physical bullying to be a bad thing, either. His point is simply that, because men are physically weaker then previous generations, this is robbing young men of a piece of their manhood that inhibits their well-being.
Martin Kich, writing at Academeblog, gives a brief but comprehensive response to French’s piece. I direct your attention there as Kich notes a number of issues that arise, straightforwardly, from what French discusses.
I am drawing attention to French’s piece for a different reason. As with generations before them, Millennials are at that age where they stop being the kids that need protection and start being the source of all that is wrong with society. The biggest Millennial sin is a lack of toughness due to being over-coddled, and Millennial men, French’s piece as an example, are often criticized for their perceived lack of manliness.
Yet, among all the cries to cease emasculating men, you never hear worry that we’ve given up punishing Millennial men for raping women. Why is that? Are men so wimpy that they can no longer face punishment for their crimes? Have we so emasculated older generations of men that they now lack the courage, strength, and conviction to punish younger men who rape, assault, and abuse women? The answer, it seems, is a resounding ‘yes’.
What am I talking about? An 18 year-old high school student raped two peers while they were unconscious. His punishment? 2 years of probation. Citing the linked article, David Becker, the Massachusetts teen “…must remain drug and alcohol-free, submit to an evaluation for sex offender treatment and stay away from the two 18-year old victims.” That’s it. This ruling comes after the recent 6-month jail sentence for Brock Turner, the 20 year-old Stanford student who also sexually assaulted an unconscious woman. Sure, the Brock Turner case got a lot of attention, but was their outrage from those who valorize traditional forms of masculinity? I didn’t see it.
Why is that? I genuinely don’t get it. Look, I know there is resistance to concepts like ‘rape culture’. Some view the raising of alarm bells about rape and sexual assault on college campuses to be overblown. But so what? Even if you hold those views, you should still be able to see something horribly wrong in letting these men off with minor punishments for their violent crimes.
Consider the words of Thomas Rooke, the attorney for Becker, the 18 year-old high school student. Quoting Rooke: “He can now look forward to a productive life without being burdened with the stigma of having to register as a sex offender. …The goal of this sentence was not to impede this individual from graduating high school and to go onto the next step of his life, which is a college experience.”
Let’s state this again. David Becker raped two women while they were unconscious. Instead of holding him accountable, we’re bending over backwards to not burden him with facing the consequences of his actions. Talk about coddling.
In a follow up piece to his initial article about the decreased physical strength of Millennial men, David French provides a rationale for his concern. Namely, he gives examples where physical strength is a key element of performing charity and civil service. French’s defense relies on young men having more than just physical strength. It requires that they also develop character strength, and a part developing character strength requires accepting responsibility for one’s actions. The cases of Becker and Turner fall woefully short in developing these men’s character. Quite the opposite, they are efforts to free these men from their responsibilities. If you think our society is raising weak men, this should get you outraged.
Look, I understand that grip strength is a serious issue, but when it is put beside holding rapists accountable for their crimes, it begins to feel irrelevant. If your blood boils learning that the average grip strength of men has decreased over the past 30 years, please allow your blood to boil when you hear that we’re coddling convicted rapists. And please, if you are going to express your outrage about one of these, may it be toward the coddling of convicted rapists.
Jeff Peden, fellow man