THE MEN FROM THE BOYS: Rites of Passage in Male America by Ray Raphael

THE MEN FROM THE BOYS: Rites of Passage in Male America

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Why are men so nervous about their own masculinity?"" asks Raphael (Cash Crop, 1985; Edges, 1976). One answer suggested by this intelligent study, based on Raphael's in-depth interviews with 100 males aged 15 to 50, is the lack of appropriate rites to mark the passage from boyhood to manhood. Bereft of traditional rites of passage, most American males settle for makeshift arrangements that nonetheless manage to capture some of the special blend of pain, physical dislocation, and new identity bestowed by ancient ceremonies. Thus Will Bell found that his first days in the army brought him a new appearance (a shaved head), new clothes, and great physical trials. Ken B. went to medical school, where he donned clothing (white robe) and spoke a new language. Roger G. invented his own rites of passage, involving days in the wilderness where he ate raw trout that he had caught barehanded. David Smith swam from Africa to Europe. Other men found suitable initiation rites in Masonic lodges, college fraternities, or organized war games. Raphael has mixed feelings about these practices, which may be too ersatz to really satisfy, and which often involve competition that creates losers as well as winners--a far cry from ancient cultures where everyone succeeded in becoming a man. More a diagnosis of the problem than a prescription for healing--and clear evidence that ""maleness"" is a tremendously complex, vexing problem in our increasingly unisex society.

Pub Date: Dec. 2nd, 1988
Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska Press