The Antidote to ‘Toxic Masculinity’

Sex scandals highlight a massive problem—but we can’t solve it unless we correctly define it.

Shocking, revolting details of the Harvey Weinstein scandal came in a flood in October. The public learned that, over decades, one of Hollywood’s most powerful men had sexually harassed and assaulted dozens of women, and was abetted by a large team that covered his tracks and suppressed the truth. Once Weinstein was finally exposed, the lid blew off a much larger and even more explosive story.

The story is that sexual predation is apparently everywhere.

Every day seems to bring fresh allegations of sexual harassment, carefully worded public statements, new apologies, resignations and firings. The accused include high-profile celebrities and leaders: actors such as Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Spacey, Richard Dreyfuss and Ben Affleck; comedians such as Louis C. K. and Andy Dick; film directors such as Oliver Stone, Brett Ratner and James Toback (accused by over 100 women). Scandals have hit media bigwigs such as Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly (fired) and ceo Roger Ailes (resigned), as well as producers, publicists and publishers. The shock waves are hitting other professions: businessmen, doctors, educators, administrators, editors, chefs. They are shaking the political world: Mayors, congressmen, even former presidents have been accused. One Democrat representative testified that Capitol Hill is “probably among the worst” of hostile work environments for women. In a similar scandal affecting Britain, politicians are resigning in droves.

Collective moral outrage has descended suddenly, with stunning fury. The “rules” governing many sectors of society have changed overnight. Immoral acts that were tolerated, even encouraged, are now repugnant. Some of the alleged offenses are decades old—but the new standard is the only standard. It seems no one is invulnerable, and the spreading scandals have no end in sight.

In many cases, evil predatory men are receiving punishment they richly deserve. Environments where harassment was condoned are getting cleaned up. This is undeniably positive.

But that is not all that is happening here. Now every misdeed, big or small, is being treated with the same indignation and scorn—and the same presumption of guilt. Many allegations are one person’s word against another’s, but no politician, commentator, reporter, manager or decision-maker wants to be seen as an insensitive chauvinist. So they automatically applaud every woman for courageously exposing her assailant.

This lightning-fast, potent moralistic about-face is happening for a reason.

Once you understand the reason, you can recognize the real solution.

‘Toxic Masculinity’

The overarching lesson drawn by many critics of Weinstein and his brethren is that there is something inherently pernicious about men in general. Many people now genuinely believe that traditional manhood is lethal and is destroying our nations.

Actress Emma Thompson responded to the scandals this way: “So what we need to start talking about is the crisis in masculinity, the crisis of extreme masculinity which is this sort of behavior” (emphasis added throughout).

USA Today wrote, “It’s the culture—both within and beyond Hollywood—dominated by toxic masculinity that ignored Weinstein’s problematic behavior, that let rumor remain rumor, and that endangers women everywhere if it’s not curtailed” (Oct. 13, 2017).

“Literally and figuratively, toxic masculinity is killing us,” wrote the Boston Globe’s Renée Graham. “Mass shootings. Domestic violence. Fatal fraternity hazing. Rape culture. Workplaces and schools turned into cesspools of sexual harassment and assault. This is not consigned to one race, ethnicity or socioeconomic level. Feral masculinity affirms itself every day through violence and domination” (Oct. 17, 2017).

Many commentators say that unwanted come-ons or even conversational faux pas like “mansplaining” and “manterrupting” are evidence of the same toxicity that produces male-only sins like sex slavery and rape.

By this view, all men are potential rapists, and are not sufficiently enlightened until they acknowledge this ugly truth.

One pundit insisted that this systemic issue has only one solution: Whenever a man in power is found guilty, fire him—and replace him with a woman.

Is masculinity the problem? Is there something inherently toxic about manhood?

“The concept of toxic masculinity is used in the social sciences to describe traditional norms of behavior among men in contemporary American and European society that are associated with detrimental social and psychological effects,” the Wikipedia page on “toxic masculinity” informs us. “Such ‘toxic’ masculine norms include dominance, devaluation of women, extreme self-reliance, and the suppression of emotions.”

Thus, if you are male and you subscribe to “traditional norms of behavior,” a growing number of people in this world, some in influential positions, consider you toxic. And what do you do with a toxic substance? You eliminate it.

There are some people who have been spurred by these scandals into a rational, good-faith effort to reduce sexual misconduct and raise moral standards. But that cause is being hijacked by an army of amoral, anti-religion, anti-tradition individuals and institutions with a more radical agenda. These people are seizing this opportunity to aggressively advance a long-held ambition to redefine, isolate, even eradicate traditional masculinity.

Attack on Real Manhood

It’s working too. Today there are various programs, including university courses, with names like Masculinity 101 and Men’s Project, designed to help men purge their toxicity. For example, a program called Rethink Masculinity, offered by Washington, D.C.’s Collective Action for Safe Spaces, describes itself as a class where men “learn how social constructs of masculinity harm them and the people around them, and work to construct healthier masculinities.” This includes becoming “better allies with women, gender non-conforming people, and other people of marginalized identities.” Teachers, professors and intellectuals are condemning anything that promotes traditional male roles, including classic literature and Disney movies. Across the planet, famous males are publicly forswearing behavior associated with conventional masculinity.

By this view, all men are potential rapists, and are not sufficiently enlightened until they acknowledge this ugly truth.

There’s no doubt about it: The last vestiges of traditional masculinity—already enfeebled after decades of being undermined and assailed—are being targeted for extermination.

If you consider yourself a traditional man, or if you are a woman in a relationship with one, you are a target. If you are a male who exhibits “dominance”—perhaps you’re a bit of an extrovert, maybe you occasionally raise your voice, and can give an order or two—you are a target. If you are a male who “suppresses his emotions”—who rarely sheds a tear or shares his feelings—you are a target. If you are a male who practices “extreme self-reliance,” you are a target.

Before you enroll in a reeducation program, though, realize that this whole movement stems from a spectacular failure to identify the real source of the problem.

Misidentifying the Problem

When you think of Weinstein and these other men, the fundamental problem is not traditional masculinity. The central issue isn’t the masculine tendency to exert dominance or to treat women differently than men. It isn’t even the abuse of power. The fundamental issue is acute selfishness and vanity, and a desperate lack of self-discipline.

These are not male-only sins. In fact, the Bible says the male and female heart is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). Various translations of this verse says the human heart, or human nature, is terminally ill. The way of human nature is “the way of vanity, lust and greed—of jealousy and envy—of competition and strife—of rebellion and deceit,” explained Herbert Armstrong in The Incredible Human Potential. Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and the rest of these individuals were walking in the way of human nature.

This doesn’t justify their behavior, but it does explain it. Fundamentally, the cause of these problems is not traditional masculinity. It is human nature.

Moreover, understanding the truth about human nature makes the solution obvious. Whatever problems are caused by toxic masculinity can only be solved if we understand the real problem. The solution isn’t to wage a war on traditional masculinity, it is to wage war on human nature.

And for men, this means developing more masculinity—that is, right, proper, biblical masculinity. If toxic masculinity is the problem, biblical masculinity is the solution.

Biblical Masculinity

What is biblical masculinity? First, traditional masculinity as it is understood today is not biblical masculinity. To be sure, some aspects of traditional masculinity are rooted in biblical teaching and principles, but these principles are often misunderstood or misapplied. Moreover, traditional masculinity does not include the essential biblical knowledge about godly manhood.

Recognize that God created men and women, and with purpose (Genesis 1:26-27). He designed masculinity and femininity, including obvious, complementary differences in the sexes’ bodies and physiques. Unbiased study shows clear, complementary differences in mental, emotional and psychological tendencies. God made all this because He intends men and women to fulfill different, complementary roles within family and society, and to be mutually dependent on one another.

God engineered certain proclivities and ambitions within men to make them builders of families, communities and societies. He then provided invaluable instruction for men on how to direct those energies toward truly productive ends. A man who follows that direction builds character and becomes a blessing to those around him.

God also designed sexuality, including attraction and beauty. He shaped several factors and forces that draw men and women together into the intimate and binding relationships of marriage and family. Then He provided laws to help everyone undertake that process in a positive, upright way that builds character and stabilizes society.

The Bible contains plenty of instruction specifically for men, detailing the duties God gives men—particularly husbands and fathers—and how men should act. For example, in Ephesians 5, God says a man’s primary responsibility within marriage is to love his wife and to sacrifice himself for her good. 1 Timothy 5:8 says a man has a duty as a provider to fulfill his family’s material needs. God gave men a greater capacity for physical strength (e.g. Proverbs 20:29), and commands that we use that for unselfish good, treating women with genuine respect (e.g. 1 Timothy 5:2). Though God equipped men physically and psychologically to be the initiator in the relationship, He forbids men to be predators—He expects them to serve as women’s protectors and defenders. He commands men to regard women with honor, as the “weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7).

Love, honor, provide, protect—are these toxic characteristics? These are aspects of true, biblical masculinity. A man who is obeying God simply will not be taking advantage of women, harassing them or using his power to secure sexual favors. Instead he will be self-controlled, skilled at restraining his lusts, and faithful to his wife.

Ultimately, being masculine means using the power of God to conquer selfish human nature, to submit to God’s will, and to fulfill the responsibilities that come with being a man.

Ultimately, being masculine means using the power of God to conquer selfish human nature, to submit to God’s will, and to fulfill the responsibilities that come with being a man. Fundamentally, a man’s job is to love and serve: God first, then family, then fellow man. These are traits that produce happiness and joy, that build stable, contented, thriving families, communities and nations.

Can you see it? The problem isn’t toxic masculinity; it’s toxic human nature. And the solution is to conquer that human nature!

Sadly, this is a solution society is unwilling to consider—yet.

A Lesson We Mustn’t Miss

Modern society has renounced God’s standards and laws. It mocks His morality and flouts His definitions of right and wrong. God condemns fornication—we embrace it. He condemns adultery—we accept it. He commands that sex be confined to within marriage—society sneers. Jesus Christ said merely looking on a woman lustfully is committing adultery in the heart (Matthew 5:28). But we live in a pornographic playground and celebrate it.

Until suddenly, we decide we don’t like some of the effects.

And that is exactly what we are seeing in all these harassment scandals: the effects—the inevitable effects—of the choices we have made. All the “toxic masculinity” ugliness is a result of pushing God aside and doing what seems right in our own eyes.

Society views the roles God designed for men and women with contempt. Now it has no idea what godly masculinity is, or femininity. People generally are woefully ignorant of what God intends men and women to be. And we are suffering immeasurably for it.

For example, to our great shame, society no longer teaches men to honor and protect women. A basic, intrinsic part of masculinity designed by God and embraced by most human beings for most of history is now condemned by modern society. Feminists consider it demeaning for a man to think of himself as a protector; it is more enlightened to let women fend for themselves. Now look at the disasters that occur when men abdicate their role.

To take another example, God commands modesty (1 Timothy 2:9). He says women should dress and behave modestly—not in hijabs or burkas, but with tasteful apparel and mannerisms that do not misuse the undeniable power of their sexuality. But society is convinced women should be able to dress and act however they want and expect men to treat them with the highest honor.

Here is Samantha Field writing for Relevant: “It may seem counterintuitive, but our concept of modesty is rooted in the idea that women are sexual objects. When we see a woman and condemn her clothing choices, we’ve accepted the idea that a woman’s body is primarily sexual. Ankles, collarbones, shoulders, cleavage, knees, thighs—they’re not treated as part of a person, but as objects that can tempt men to lust. … Victim blaming is a cornerstone of Christian teachings about sexual purity. … In this purity culture, women are to blame for what abusers do to them” (Oct. 11, 2017).

Nonsense. The truth is that in God’s eyes, we all have our part to play in preserving the sanctity of sex.

As we stand in a moral cesspool of our own creation, can’t we finally be honest and acknowledge the rotten results of our own choices?

Rather than blaming all these problems on some kind of design flaw in men, we need to recognize that this is what happens when you throw away the manufacturer’s Instruction Manual.

If men and women in Hollywood and elsewhere kept God’s laws regarding sex, none of this would be happening. These scandals prove that God is real, that He knows what He is talking about, that His law is still in effect and is binding on us today, and that when we break it, we are the ones who end up broken.

Spiritual Dimension

God designed men and women and family. Family is actually the heart of His plan for humankind (request our free booklet God Is a Family).

That is why family is such a target for attack in a world ruled by God’s adversary, the devil. Satan hates family and is undermining and destroying it. If he can prevent men from fulfilling their responsibilities to their families, he can destroy families. He has already succeeded wildly in undercutting male leadership and putting women at the heads of families and society (Isaiah 3:1-5, 12). The exploitation of these sex scandals to redefine manhood is part of a much larger, longer-term, coordinated effort.

You can do your part to fight the trend by embracing God’s vision for family, and by committing to conquering your own human nature. If you are a man, you can accomplish both of these goals by embarking on the Spirit-led, Spirit-infused crusade to develop biblical manhood!