Kirkus Reviews QR Code
GUYLAND by Michael Kimmel

GUYLAND

The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men

By Michael Kimmel

Pub Date: Sept. 2nd, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-06-083134-9
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Guys just wanna have fun.

Kimmel (Sociology/SUNY Stony Brook; Manhood in America: A Cultural History, 2005, etc.) offers an engaging account of young males in the “Guyland” stage of life—the years between 16 and 26—when they are neither kids nor grown-ups but rather direction-less “guys” who shirk adult responsibilities and bond crudely with other males in the nonstop pursuit of sex, drinking, sports, video games and other amusements. Based on nearly 400 interviews with mainly white, middle-class, college-educated youths, the author’s findings are at once commonsensical and provocative, demonstrating the prevalence of this lifestyle of entitlement and instant gratification. The book raises important questions about a “guy code” of silence that encourages them to disregard the sometimes extreme behaviors (binge drinking, bullying, predatory sex, etc.) of other males. Made possible by massive social and economic changes—the sexual revolution, delayed marriage and child-rearing, the poor job market—members of this 22-million-strong demographic live in the shared-apartments world of Friends, absorbed in escapist entertainment (porn, online poker), getting as much sex as they can, working in dead-end “McJobs” and avoiding serious, responsible lives as fathers and workers. Kimmel quotes guys from across the country to show the importance of “the cardinal rule of masculinity—“Don’t cry,” their obsession with sports talk (“the last ‘pure’ all-male space in America”) and their reliance on their peers to usher them into adulthood. Parents with young-adult males living at home will immediately recognize these guys, who stay up all hours with media, engage in casual sex and maintain a manly front at all times with the putdown, “That’s so gay.” Bored, anxious, uncertain and ill-prepared for emotional intimacy, they are in need of adult mentoring and a new model of masculinity, says Kimmel, one that encourages them to live more consciously and honorably while permitting “wholesome occasional irresponsibility.”

A useful, highly readable overview of an important social phenomenon.