Leering Old Men, which I could so easily just quote the whole damn thing but won't:
Which brings me around to my point, which is that the over-the-top behavior around masculine gender roles Digby and Dave are noticing is pretty classic early primary behavior, too. The games boys play at this age often involve extreme masculine archetypes -- cowboys, cops, soldiers, sports heroes, spacemen, and so on. (It's interesting that Little Boots has, at one time or another, tried to cast himself in all of these roles -- and that the male Kewl Kids just swooned over it, every time. Remember the fuss over Jet Pilot Action Figure Bush's "package"? Damn fool didn't loosen his straps before getting out of the jet. Nobody else on the deck had his crotch trussed up like a Christmas goose; and to them, he looked like a rookie idiot. But Chris Matthews practically had an orgasm on-air while watching him prance and strut.) The fact that so many mainstream and conservative media guys are suckered by this posturing shows that they don't really have a clue about what a Real Man looks like -- though, somewhere deep down inside, they're pretty sure they don't qualify. That's why they're so easily wowed by men who can put on the costume and make it look good.
But they're even more easily cowed by men who can actually fill the boots. John Kerry. John McCain. Colin Powell. Bill Clinton. (You don't have to agree with their politics; but nobody can say these men haven't comfortably worn the full measure of male power and responsibility for some critical stretch of their lives.) Like little boys, the media guys are so awed by the outward forms of masculinity that they eagerly make a fetish out of them; but they also actively fear and resent men who display the authentic internal goods that make an honest-to-God man. These guys' very presence incites such a strong sense of personal inadequacy that the Boys On The Bus can only resort to attacking them in ways that are openly calculated to feminize them -- that is, to bring them down to their own level. He look French. He's whipped by his powerful wife. He's preoccupied with his hair. Translation: This guy has more balls and more maturity than we do -- and we need to take him down before everybody figures out how inadequate that makes us feel.
Whatever the "real" content of manhood is (that's a whole separate discussion), sexual agency and virility lie somewhere near the core of it. It takes a sexually mature and capable man to find and woo a partner, father children, sustain the relationships that make a home, and take his place among the valuable men of the community. When you're a kid, Dad's sexual competence is the very heart of what makes him the alpha male in your family pack. At five or six, the physical attributes that make him a man are magical stuff -- and not only do you not have those attributes, your childish sense of time is such that it's easy to fear that you never will. The whole issue, as Freud knew, is fraught and uncomfortable. The only way little boys can deal with this deep and mysterious discomfort is to make giggly jokes about it. It's either that, or stand in dumbstruck awe about the power that your young life utterly depends on, yet you simply cannot comprehend -- and that's not an option on prime time TV.
The howling conservative and MSM men we're seeing on the air these seem to be stuck in some early sexual stage -- a stage where manliness and sexuality are scary adult mysteries, the obsessive stuff of wild curiosity, rampant misunderstandings, crude jokes, dress-up play-acting, and bizarre fetishes. For all their media power, these guys have sexually scarcely moved beyond playing doctor-- and, at this late stage, probably never will. Scratch any leering old man, and you'll expose a scared kid who, fifty years on, still hasn't come to terms with his own uncontrollable wet dreams, let alone the challenge of engaging productively with his own adult sexuality and that of the real-life adult women he shares the world with.