Many experts believe that the defects seen in male babies are related to a broader problem- the feminisation of men. Male sperm counts have halved since 1941. Infertility and cancer of the testes are also on the rise. Testicular cancer is now the most common cancer in young men. Hypospadias is a congenital (present at birth) anomaly (abnormality), which means that the malformation occurs during foetal development. As the fetus develops, the urethra does not grow to its complete length. Also during fetal development, the foreskin does not develop completely, which typically leaves extra foreskin on the top side of the penis and no foreskin on the underside of the penis.
Some scientists believe that the culprit may just as likely be a change in lifestyle, rather than exposure to some new environmental chemical. John Ashby, from the Syngenta Central Toxicology Laboratory in Macclesfield, says that the focus on an environmental cause may be quite wrong. “The human [reproductive] conditions cannot at the moment be associated with a named chemical,” says Ashby. “There are many lifestyle changes that could be contributing to these conditions, for instance, increased smoking among young women.”
Other disorders of the male reproductive system are also on the increase. Cryptorchidism is the most common genital malformation of all, when one of both testes fail to descend into the scrotum, affecting between two and four per cent of baby boys. Chordee – a downward curve of the penis, especially when erect – is usually, but not always, associated with hypospadias. Boys with chordee often have to sit down when they relieve themselves. In later life, the severe curvature from chordee can make intercourse impossible.
Professor Richard Sharpe, a male fertility specialist at the Medical Research Council’s University of Edinburgh Centre of Reproductive Health, suggests that all the disorders stem from a problem arising at the key stage in the development of the male foetus during early pregnancy. “From epidemiological studies, we know that each of the disorders is a risk factor for all the others, and that they share several pregnancy-related risk factors,” Sharpe says. “Most importantly, we know that they share hormonal risk factors, in particular, anything that interferes with the production or action of androgens and testosterone [the male sex hormones] during the sexual differentiation process of the foetus that occurs in the womb.”
“Phthalates are the most common environmental chemical. They are in the air around us,” says Sharpe. However, he points out, it is too early to jump to the conclusion that this is the cause of the problem. “At present, doses that are 100- to 500-fold higher than the highest reported human exposure are required to induce such effects, and we do not have any proof that phthalates can induce such effects in humans,” he says. “Nevertheless, phthalates are everywhere in our environment, we are all exposed, and the highest exposure appears to be in young women of reproductive age.”
An increasing number of baby boys in the UK are being born with genital disorders. One in 350 male babies have a condition known as hypospadias. Instead of the opening of the penis being at the tip, it may be lower down the penis or even around the scrotum. In a few rare cases, there may not be an opening at all.
In other words, the suggestion is that there is something happening early in the development of the male foetus that interferes with the key steps enabling it to develop into a healthy, fertile male. Ever since Professor Skakkebaek made his discovery on sperm counts, environmentalists have suggested that it could be “gender-bending” chemicals – endocrine disrupters – in the environment that are the cause of the gradual feminisation of men. But despite intense research to find these endocrine disrupters, the precise reasons for the problems have not so far been identified.
Another possible lifestyle factor that could be playing a role is the significant increase in the intake of dietary fat over the past 50 years. Fat is linked with oestrogens – the female sex hormone – and more fat means more oestrogens, which means a possible increase in the risk of interference with the proper development of male reproductive organs. “The trends on dietary fat are up, and the implications are great for endocrine disruption,” says Ashby.
Nevertheless, work on animals has led to the discovery of some chemicals in the environment that could be playing an important role. Sharpe cites his work on chemicals called phthalates, substances used by industry to soften plastics. He has been able to create a set of disorders in laboratory animals that mimic human testicular dysgenesis syndrome by
exposing pregnant mothers to certain phthalate esters at a key stage of foetal development.
An increasing number of baby boys in the UK are being born with genital disorders. One in 350 male babies have a condition known as hypospadias. Instead of the opening of the penis being at the tip, it may be lower down the penis or even around the scrotum. In a few rare cases, there may not be an opening at all. Other disorders of the male reproductive system are also on the increase. Cryptorchidism is the most common genital malformation of all, when one of both testes fail to descend into the scrotum, affecting between two and four per cent of baby boys. Chordee – a
Bem, S. L. (1974). The measurement of psychological androgyny. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 42(2), 155-162.
The problem for boys and men whose masculinity is being subject to attack is that many studies have shown that both women and men who scored higher on the masculinity (than the femininity) scale were more likely to have higher self-esteem (which often correlates with success). The original thinking by Bem and others was that the most highly successful people would be androgynous – defined as scoring above the median on both masculinity and femininity; so it was surprising to many that this was often not the case, but rather that scoring higher on masculinity was frequently the best predictor of success.
I wish my parents had sent me to military school. I never took learning seriously until about college as high school always seemed kind of “fake” to me.
What are “masculine” and “feminine” anyhow? In spite of a difficulty with a gender binary that so many people have these days, I strongly believe that there would still be general agreement on terms for each category. One frequently used measure of masculinity and femininity – and “androgyny,” which would be a relatively high score on both sides – is the Bem Sex Role Inventory (or BSRI) developed by Sandra Bem more than 40 years ago (Bem, 1974). ” If you go by the Male Role Norms Inventory (MRNI), developed by Ronald Levant, then masculinity is negatively correlated with mental and physical health. The BSRI and MRNI are measuring different things. But I have to ask, why do you prefer one measure over the other?
How do you separate the success of more masculine men and women from the over-valuing of the traditionally masculine and under-valuing of the traditionally feminine? I don’t see how there will be true equality between the sexes until there is equal respect for the masculine and feminine in society.
I raised three boys, and let me tell you, I was surprised by how different they were from me! We sent them all to an excellent Jesuit all-boy school and it was the best decision we ever made. After 6 years in public schools they were finally accepted for being BOYS. No more craft projects masquerading as academics, no more endlessly-talking teachers, no more teacher-decorated classrooms, etc. Most of the teachers were male and they didn’t yak yak yak all class time (which is when many boys tune out). They did a lot more hands on work in the classroom (in many cases instead of homework). The work was very rigorous, but it was clearly defined, very focused, and high expectations were clearly set (and on things that didn’t matter, there were low expectations). Assigned books (which were numerous) were generally boyish topics that they enjoyed (especially in the middle school). They had morning recess because they understood that boys need food at 10:00 and they need to move around. They didn’t fuss about certain color folders or binders – there were no “supply lists.” Public speaking was a requirement. So many of the very feminine features of our schools (because there are just so many female teachers) were gone. it was very self affirming for those boys!
You have to be sort of obtuse not to see the problem with defining basic prosocial things like caring about other people as feminine and therefore to be shamed out of males. You have to be sort of obtuse not to see the problem with defining self-confidence itself as masculine. There’s obviously a misogynist value system at play.
Women, on the other hand, are not seeing feminized males as attractive partners. PT has many articles on this. Any “good man” has known this from the beginning. The men with the masculine traits are the men that are popular with the ladies. Will women be able to find an attractive male partner in the future?
I don’t blame feminism–in fact with more and more girls making guys obey them in their relationships with them I think more guys should be taught how to do girls’ hair and nails in school (if not as potential careers, then just to pamper their girlfriends), to wash women’s lingerie, etc to become better homemakers for the future breadwinners of our society (girls lol). Rather I blame modern society. With everything being paved you have to spend $60 bucks on gas to go hunting only to realize all the deer is in your own backyard so to speak.
The problem for boys whose masculinity is under attack is that both women and men who scored higher on the masculinity scale were more likely to have higher self-esteem.