Notes on boyhood

Ruth Whippman

I have spent the last few years talking to boys as research for my new book, as well as raising my own three sons, and I have come to believe the conditions of modern boyhood amount to a perfect storm for loneliness. This is a new problem bumping up against an old one. All the old deficiencies and blind spots of male socialization are still in circulation — the same mass failure to teach boys relational skills and emotional intelligence, the same rigid masculinity norms and social prohibitions that push them away from intimacy and emotionality. But in screen-addicted, culture war-torn America, we have also added new ones.

The micro-generation that was just hitting puberty as the #MeToo movement exploded in 2017 is now of college (and voting) age. They have lived their whole adolescence not just in the digital era, with a glorious array of virtual options to avoid the angst of real-world socializing, but also in the shadow of a wider cultural reckoning around toxic masculinity.