The 3 P’s of Manhood: Protect

by Brett on February 24, 2014 · 85 comments

in A Man's Life, On Manhood


 “Manhood is the social barrier that societies must erect against entropy, human enemies, the forces of nature, time, and all the human weaknesses that endanger group life.” -David D. Gilmore

There is much discussion these days about manhood and the future of men. Sometimes I will see people try to stop one of these conversations before they even begin by saying something like, “Talking about what it means to be a man is meaningless, because the whole idea of manhood is totally relative. It’s different in every culture and has changed throughout time.”

There is some truth to that argument, in that the ideals of manhood have indeed varied over the centuries and around the world. But it is quite wrong in the assumption that these ideals have not shared some unvarying commonalities. Manhood has always meant something, and though it may come as a surprise to some, it has always meant pretty much the same thing to nearly every society in the world.

This is the finding of one of the few, if not the only book to have made a thorough cross-cultural study of the many ways masculinity is perceived and lived out around the world: Manhood in the Making by David D. Gilmore. I actually had thought I read this book around the time I started the blog and that I had not gotten much out of it. But I recently picked it up again and found to my surprise that not only had I only skimmed it previously, it turned out to be the most enlightening book on manhood I had ever read. If you’re interested in the nature of manliness and masculinity, I highly recommend giving it a read. It’s helped me think through the meaning of manhood on a new level, and I’m very excited about using it as fodder for a number of posts now and in the future.

Today I’d like to start with one of Gilmore’s primary findings: that the concern for being manly, far from being a peculiarly modern phenomena, an American obsession beget of a frontier past, or a cultural quirk that developed in a few pockets of the world, has instead been shared by nearly every culture in the world, both past and present. Societies as far-flung as Japan and Mexico, New Guinea and India, Kenya and Spain, had and continue to have a cultural conception of a “real man” — an ideal to which all males are expected to aspire.

Not only is the belief in a code of “true manliness” nearly universal, there are, as anthropologist Thomas Gregor puts it, “continuities of masculinity that transcend cultural differences.” While every society’s idea of what constitutes a “real man” has been molded by their unique histories, environments, and dominant religious beliefs, Gilmore found that almost all them share three common imperatives or moral injunctions — what I’ve taken to calling the 3 P’s of Manhood: a male who aspires to be a man must protect, procreate, and provide.

What is so striking is that this triad of male imperatives can be found in cultures that share little else in common. They are the “deep structures of masculinity” and are present in societies that are patriarchal as well as those that are relatively egalitarian, primitive as well as urban, bellicose as well as peaceable.

The 3 P’s are not universal, as there are a few cultures where no ideal of manhood exists at all. But these exceptions are so rare, and so, well, exceptional, that the code is, if not universal, than highly ubiquitous.

Today we will take a look at the first of the 3 P’s: the duty to protect.

A Series Side Note

As you read these three posts, the most pressing question in your mind (since we’re all ego-driven creatures) is likely, “How do I stack up to this criteria?” Even in modern societies where boys are taught that worrying about being a “real man” is silly, many men (and I’d venture to say most men) still want to think they make the cut.

If you identify with the 3 P’s, you’ll probably be nodding your head as you read along. If you don’t, you may experience a strong emotional reaction; we often feel a visceral, physiological fight-or-flight response to a “threat” to our social status.

It is a great truism that men will frame their definition of manhood in a way that most suits their own personal make-up, beliefs, and attributes; they gravitate to a definition of manhood that best describe themselves and criticize molds of manhood in which there is less alignment. Which is to say that a frail nerd is likely to downplay the importance of the protector role and emphasize the smarts needed to be a provider, while a physically fit man who can’t or doesn’t wish to have children is likely to downplay the procreator role and emphasize the strength needed to be a protector.

But defining manhood with yourself as the exemplar par excellence really isn’t the best way to go about it, is it? The kind of man I really respect is one who can frankly acknowledge where he may fall short of the traditional criteria, thoughtfully ponder whether that bothers him or not, and whether it’s a good standard in the first place. Then he can decide from there if it’s something he’d like to aspire more towards or whether he knows he doesn’t meet that traditional standard, but doesn’t really care either.

For example, I’m a real homebody who enjoys reading books and spending time with my wife and kids. Until recent times, this proclivity of mine would have gotten me labeled as a certifiable nancy boy (more on that below). But while getting out into the hurly burly of the world may not describe me personally, I can also understand the value of getting men into the public square to compete and to risk; all of society benefits from such strivings. I’m not going to completely change my ways because of this knowledge, but I’m not going to reject it out of hand either; it encourages me to look for ways to, if only slightly, temper my reticent habits with more social engagement.

All of which is to say, whenever you encounter standards of manliness that don’t fit you personally, fight the emotional knee-jerk reaction to dismiss them immediately, and spend more time thinking about their possible value, whether you might aspire more to them, and, if it is in fact impossible for you to achieve them, whether you might work harder for excellence in the other areas in which you can strive.

Man as Protector


“The quintessence of manliness is fearlessness, readiness to defend one’s own pride and that of one’s family.” –Julian Pitt-Rivers, The People of the Sierra

If we can think of the 3 P’s of Manhood as an arch through which a male must pass through to become a man, the imperative to protect is undeniably its cornerstone. The quality that is requisite for its fulfillment — courage — has been recognized as the sin qua non of manliness since ancient times. And it is also the male imperative that has most endured in our modern, otherwise gender-neutral world; even in households where work and parenting is shared equally between husband and wife, if something goes bump in the night, it will almost always be the man who is sent to investigate.


“Among the Jats living in the state capital of Chandigarh . . . courage and the willingness to take risks were the major values of the male and of manliness.”

The staying power and salience of protection as an imperative for manliness can be traced to the fact that, compared to the other two injunctions, it is rooted more firmly in anatomy and physiology. Men, in general, have greater physical strength than women; and in maintaining and growing a population, semen is much less valuable than a womb. Hence, being both stronger and more expendable, men have, since time immemorial, been given society’s dirtiest and most dangerous jobs.

“Manhood is a triumph over the impulse to run from danger.”

As we shall see, Gilmore argues that all three of manhood’s core imperatives involve a degree of risk and are structured as win/lose propositions. The danger inherent in the protector role is simply more salient than that of the other two, since “losing” in this mission can result in bodily harm or death.


Because of the inherent risk in the endeavors required to become a man, “expendability…often constitutes the measure of manhood”:

“To be men, most of all, they must accept the fact that they are expendable. This acceptance of expendability constitutes the basis of the manly pose everywhere it is encountered; yet simple acquiescence will not do. To be socially meaningful, the decision for manhood must be characterized by enthusiasm combined with stoic resolve or perhaps ‘grace.’ It must show a public demonstration of positive choice, of jubilation even in pain, for its represents a moral commitment to defend the society and its core values against all odds. So manhood is the defeat of childish narcissism that is not only different from the adult role but antithetical to it.”

From being called to the battlefield in every era, to men putting women and children on the Titanic’s lifeboats while they went down with the ship, to men covering their girlfriend’s bodies during the Aurora movie theater shooting, manliness around the world has always meant a willingness to sacrifice one’s own life for the protection of others.

Standing Watch at the Door


“The real man gains renown by standing between his family and destruction, absorbing the blows of fate with equanimity.”

The essence of the injunction to protect is the “need to establish and defend boundaries.” A man guards the line between dangers of all kinds and those he loves and feels duty-bound to protect — the boundary between his home and the outside world and that between his village or nation and its enemy. He is roused to action when that line is crossed. Even a man who doesn’t consider himself particularly patriotic or lend much credence to the concept of manhood might very likely find himself grabbing a rifle if invaders started pouring across the border of his country.

Bluff and Bravado

The boundaries a man protects extend past the physical variety to the line between honor and dishonor as well, both for his own reputation and that of his family and lineage. Traditionally, maintaining a reputation for manhood meant responding to any slight to either – protecting one’s good name was paramount.


“After this protectiveness toward women comes the Trukese stress of fisticuffs and toughness. Young Trukese men feel they must battle each other to show bravery, to ‘vindicate manhood in physical combat.’ A man who absorbs insults is not a man at all. A common instigation to combat is to insinuate, ‘Come are you not a man?! I will take your life now.’”

One of the key elements underlying all three of the P’s of Manhood is that a man’s fitness for each duty had to be demonstrated in visible symbols and accomplishments and had to be publicly confirmed. To be a reclusive homebody was considered effeminate – a man had to be out in the public square, “in the arena.” For example, in Cyprus, “a man who lingers at home with wife and children will have his manhood questioned: ‘What sort of man is he? He prefers hanging about the house with women.’” And among the Algerian Kabyle, “A man who spends too much time at home in the daytime is suspect or ridiculous: he is ‘a house man,’ who broods at home like a hen at roost.’ A self-respecting man must offer himself to be seen, constantly put himself in the gaze of others, confront them, face up to them (qabel). He is a man among men.”


“In Sicily, ‘un vero uomo’ (a real man) is defined by ‘strength, power, and cunning necessary to protect his women.’ At the same time, of course, the successfully protective man in Sicily or Andalusia garners praise through courageous feats and gains renown for himself as an individual. This inseparable functional linkage of personal and group benefit is one of the most ancient notions found in the Mediterranean civilizations.”

When it comes to the protector role, this public demonstration of fitness takes the form of competitive, combative sports like wrestling and fisticuffs. These contests establish a pecking order within the tribe, showing who is the toughest. Success in a fight earns a man a reputation as someone who should not be messed with. At the same time, these dust-ups reveal which men are prepared for battle and which would be weak links should the tribe have to unite to face an external enemy. For each individual man contributes to the group’s overall reputation for strength, and that reputation can act as a deterrent that prevents enemies from even attempting an attack.

As Gilmore explains, using the frequent brawls engaged in by the young men of Truk Island as an example, the most important thing for men to demonstrate in these kinds of fights is his “gameness” – that even if he’s not the strongest of the bunch, he’s willing to scrap and endure:

“What seems to matter most is not winning the fight necessarily, although that counts, but rather the readiness to engage or to respond to challenge and the show of indifference to pain. A real man cares nothing about personal injury, laughing at the sign of his own blood. In fighting, win or lose, if he acquits himself bravely in the heat of combat, a man corroborates his claim to manhood, simultaneously bolstering his group’s reputation for strength. An honorable defeat is not itself a loss of face; what seems to matter most is to show a willingness to receive blows, to shed blood. Bruises and scars only add to a man’s prestige and that of his lineage.”

While the bluff and bravado – overt machismo – that all-male groups exhibit is often criticized as being juvenile and theatrical, Gilmore argues that behaviors like brawling and risk-taking actually “overlay an infrastructure of serious social obligations”:

“Beneath the posturing and the self-promotion lies a residue of practical expectations that men everywhere shoulder to some extent…the need to establish and defend boundaries.”


“Being a man in Andalusia is also based on what the people call hombre. Technically this means manliness… hombre is physical and moral courage… it means standing up for yourself as an independent and proud actor, holding your own when challenged. Spaniards also call this dignidad (dignity). It is not based on threatening people or on violence, for Andalusians despise bullies and deplore physical roughness, which to them is mere buffoonery. Generalized as to context, hombre means courageous and stoic demeanor in the face of any threat; most important, it means defending one’s honor and that of one’s family… The restraint on violence is always based on the capacity for violence, so that the reputation is vital here.

How a Man Wrestles Is How He Does Everything Else


All of the 3 P’s interact and interrelate with each other. For example when it comes to the aforementioned public brawls, they are used by a man’s peers to judge not only his fitness as a protector, but how good of a farmer and husband he will be. The same qualities that make for a good wrestler – discipline and perseverance – are those that will make him a success in these other roles. A man who shows he can scrap will be more trusted and respected by his fellow men, and more likely to be asked by them to be a friend and a partner in economic pursuits. He’s the guy the other guys want when they’re picking teams. For similar reasons, the brawls are watched closely and enthusiastically by the opposite sex.

Physical prowess can thus win a man opportunities to gain material wealth (making him a better provider) and women (thus increasing his chances to procreate), thereby boosting his manly reputation overall.


The big question that will naturally arise from a discussion of the 3 P’s of Manhood (besides how well you personally embody them), is whether these standards are still relevant in a time where drones have replaced men as killing machines, some think the world is already overpopulated, and women make up half the workforce. Is manliness in fact obsolete?

As Gilmore points out, the imperatives themselves aren’t really bad or good as far as being categories of encouraged behavior. It’s how they’re applied, enforced, and segregated exclusively to the male sex that people take issue with. Some who are very traditional will say we should carry these charges forward pretty much untouched. Some will say they are offensive, sexist, and wholly outdated and should be dropped as markers of manhood altogether. And some (and this includes us) will say that they do still have value, and that you should retain the best parts of these manly duties, discard what doesn’t work, and not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

I actually respect someone who will take any of those particular sides more than someone who doesn’t want to have the discussion at all because “manhood is meaningless.” At least have the discussion. And when you do, now you know where to start.

Read the rest of the series: 
Part II – Procreate
Part III – Provide
Part IV – The 3 P’s of Manhood in Review
Part V – What Is the Core of Manhood?


 A Note on the Source

Manhood in the Making: Cultural Concepts of Masculinity by David D. Gilmore is a most excellent and insightful book. Like all authors, Gilmore has his biases, but for a subject like manhood that can often by covered so polemically, the book is refreshingly well-balanced.

The book came out in 1990 and Gilmore cites many anthropological studies that were done in the 60s and 70s. For the sake of style, we have used the present tense as he did when describing the cultures mentioned above. But obviously much has changed since those studies were done, and if any readers reside in the societies mentioned, it would be great to hear from them as to the current state of manhood where they live.

Actually, it would be great to hear from readers all across the world as to how their own culture sees manhood in our modern times.

{ 85 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Matthew February 24, 2014 at 11:04 pm

The intro and side note of this post alone are great, and I think this will be one of your most important series so far! Keep up the manly work.

2 Tadiwa Chavanduka February 25, 2014 at 12:12 am

As a younger man preparing for college, I feel this is a great examination of us a species. We strive to better ourselves and our populations, We as men have been given (or have taken?) the roles we have today for that exact purpose. I am looking forward to the piece on providing and its relation to modern economics.

3 Daniel February 25, 2014 at 3:23 am

I love the first picture of Australian troops in action. Manhood and sacrifice was shown in massive amounts in the Kokoda campaign in Papua New Guinea where the photo was taken.

4 Silviu T February 25, 2014 at 4:14 am

I love how this ties in principles such as honor and courage into one idea. It’s really something. Keep up the good writing for your college student followers.

I’d love to have you stop by George Fox University if you are in Oregon any time.

5 M. Catlett February 25, 2014 at 7:21 am

At one point in my life, I would have scoffed at this. Now, being a family man, I can opine that being able to protect is a core desire that shapes my life, along with being able to provide.

6 Peter February 25, 2014 at 7:45 am

And thus war and death are born.

7 Joey E February 25, 2014 at 8:11 am

I’m looking forward to this series. I’m especially curious how you handle “procreate.”

For comparison, our church has taught that the 3 P’s of manhood are “Pursue, Provide, Protect.” The only difference between the 2 lists are substituting Pursue for Procreate.

The idea of Pursue is nice because it involves multiple kinds of relationships, not just sexual. And I like the idea that manhood is about activity — PURSUING.

8 C. Jackson February 25, 2014 at 8:21 am

M. Catlett brings up a good point: Sometimes it takes having something TO protect before you see and embrace the protector in you.
Each man is born with a certain degree of that “sheepdog” instinct that wishes to attack threats upon the weak and innocent and upon honor and dignity. This article nails what I think is an undeniable concept: men each have a fighter inside. What we choose to fight for, or against, cannot help but manifest at some point. With a few dads I’ve spoken to, like the case with M. Catlett, the choice becomes clear: I suddenly have the thing I would fight for and die to protect, no questions asked.

9 Srdjan February 25, 2014 at 8:36 am

I think the most important thing to take away from this is that physical violence and especially brawling is never good, it can be asset in schoolyard but not in life.

As someone with fairly violent history and countless brawls I can say it never brought me any good, and I was lucky, seriously bad things happened, I personally dealt some major injuries and witnessed countless others and I know about few deaths that started as a accidental pushes and mean looks, not to mention law problems.

On the other hand other types of bravado and showing off courage are just stupid and I think them bad only when someone else gets hurt in the process.

But violence although bad can be necessary and it does help to be prepared so go ahead if your family is directly threatened kill a guy but don’t start trouble because someone called you a coward because guys have knives and guns and he can kill you or you can kill them, and I don’t want to get in discussion which is worse.

10 Pete Sveen February 25, 2014 at 8:44 am

Hey Brett,

Your writing just put a lot of thoughts in my brain and really made me think about the role of a man in todays society and how it has (or we think) changed over time. I enjoyed it. Thanks

11 brian February 25, 2014 at 8:46 am

Nobody these days wants a Real man around until:
1. Someone needs protection
2. Something needs Killed!

Then the ones we are protecting don’t like the fact we killed something in order to protect them. Praying, Hoping and Protesting doesn’t stop crimes against humanity only ACTION does.

12 Phil L. February 25, 2014 at 9:10 am

For those who care about this sort of thing…

I believe the machine gun visible near the top of the lead picture is a Bren gun, in service since 1938, firing .303 British.

I’m almost certain the bolt rifle in the middle of the photo is an SMLE (Short Magazine Lee Enfield), though there were many variants of this design. I’m sure others can spot the details that would narrow the identification of this rifle.

13 Nikola Gjakovski February 25, 2014 at 9:23 am

My attitude toward manliness is that so many new things and technology raised last three decades that men forgot to confront people in four eyes. Every business and almost every conversation is going via camera, text, or mail. As you mentioned “women make up half the workforce” I think that’s very awry. Not even the last thing on my mind is to degrade women population, but they don’t have the “testosterone” to weight out the family. They are of inevitable support and they need to “put water on the tree” and raise a family, and we are the ones who need to put 200 pounds on our back and still manage to open our mouth and smile while going through ruff times

14 Eric Sztanyo February 25, 2014 at 10:08 am

Understanding manliness and a man’s role in the world is of extreme importance.

If you believe in the biblical Creator, man is given enormous worth and purpose from the very beginning. He was created to rule over the earth and subdue it – not an easy task by any means – requiring courage, protection, bravado, battle.

Man is both honored above any creature on earth (if you hold to the Imago Dei concept) and yet must humbly accept he was made from dust. Enough to lift your confidence to amazing heights while at the same time accepting you are a breath away from death.

As it comes to Protect, I would agree that this is a primary role of man. What a different world it would be if man had fully protected his wife from that serpent in the garden.

15 Rob February 25, 2014 at 10:20 am

Great article again.

I feel protection in todays society doesn’t necessarily mean brawling and fighting. Protection to me means more about protecting our children from themselves by instilling good values in them. Protecting our family by ensuring you keep a roof over their head (which I’m sure the next article will touch on). Protecting by being there for your wife when she needs someone.

I choose to look at protection in a very broad sense, courage is needed all the time in day to day life, and thus protection is born from that.

16 Josh M February 25, 2014 at 10:45 am

Really beneficial article. Many guys transitioning between childhood and adulthood have no idea what protection means. Its difficult to translate the historical conception of protection and courage into today’s standards. Modern Western civilization looks down upon wrestling and fighting — equating a friendly scruff into malignant violence.

But something that has been a part of so many human civilizations for so long should have some sort of implementation today. I suppose a simple way is that at 18, American men register for the draft.

Another way to protect in the modern age is by finding a career that provides service to people. By providing a service to society — whether you’re a doctor, a firefighter, or a cashier — you are protecting it from disintegrating.

17 Daniel Murphy February 25, 2014 at 10:59 am

I wonder if you guys have read _The Dude’s Guide to Manhood_ by pastor Darrin Patrick of the St. Louis church The Journey? He’s the chaplain of the St. Louis Cardinals, and it’s a really terrific book for both men and women.

I read it recently and thought that it was reminiscent of your site. Let me know if you enjoy it.

18 Tim Foley February 25, 2014 at 11:11 am

my mother always told me that the role of a man is to provide protect and carry heavy objects.

19 Steve Newman February 25, 2014 at 11:34 am

I applied a single word to make this perfectly relevant for me: Man-kind as protector. I feel the origins may be more masculine, basic, and brutal but the essence and need for protection will never go away. The protection we need is not [always or nearly always] physical violence – it is more security against the things in our environment that can cause harm to us or more importantly, to our families.

Love this post; thank you Brett.

20 Breandan February 25, 2014 at 11:37 am

Is it a good idea to encourage more men to become sacrificial lambs? Of course, they will be called to action, and then after the need for action they will be vilified yet again for being violent animals. It’s possible to get tired of doing the right thing and then being attacked for it. “Insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly, and expecting different results every time.”

21 Stephen February 25, 2014 at 11:44 am

Agree with Matthew, this could be the best (and possibly most important) series yet.

Also, I like Joey E’s proposal of “pursue” which would encompass the simplicity of “procreate”, and, depending on how you all tackle it, could serve as the correct modern revision of “procreate”.

22 Dr Richard Norris February 25, 2014 at 12:21 pm

This is always a relevant topic. I wrote a series on the 5 Ps. Men instinctively have a protective spirit. When a man understands this is part of what it means to be a man he will think and act accordingly.

I think the term I most relate to in the article is hombre – the Andalusian term meaning physical and moral courage. Manliness will never be obsolete. As long as there are men there will be some who strive to be all that being a man means to them.

From the days of creation God design men to lead, to protect and to stand for what is right. That will never change.

23 keithp February 25, 2014 at 12:40 pm

How about this one, folks…

Robert A Heinlein : “Men are expendable; women and children are not. A tribe or a nation can lose a high percentage of its men and still pick up the pieces and go on… as long as the women and children are saved. But if you fail to save the women and children, you’ve had it, you’re done, you’re through! You join Tyrannosaurus Rex, one more breed that bilged its final test.”

24 C. Lees February 25, 2014 at 1:15 pm

I agree with several of the other posters. Fighting itself isn’t a true measure of a man, and violence for the sake of violence is distasteful. But showing that you can defend your family and will is often enough to deter an attacker, and in the end, it’s better to die or kill defending your family than it is to stand idly by while someone else hurts them.

25 C. Lees February 25, 2014 at 1:19 pm

Oh and one more thing- Brett, I know that you identify (like myself) with the thinkers out there. I did want to point out though, something that you might not have meant to be insulting. You mention in your introduction the ‘frail nerd’, and then the fit man. I don’t think you meant anything by it, but a nerdy man is still a man. Maybe it would have been better to say, “The thinking man”, instead of “The frail nerd”, just to be a little clearer. A nerd can be a badass, he’s just a studious badass. Ask Teddy Roosevelt.

26 Jacob February 25, 2014 at 1:27 pm


I don’t expect this comment to be posted but I am compelled to comment after watching your Ted Talk on Manliness. I praise your work on providing guidance for the development of a strong responsible male culture that has been waning for decades. You are someone who obviously values the discipline of logic and reason and applying it to address the issues that face men today. This is why I was astounded when you, at the end of your talk, said men should restore those qualities that made this country strong but should cast in the dust bin of history those traits of Racism, Sexism and Homophobia.

This acquiescence to the 3 tiers of Political Correctness propaganda caused me great distress taken in the context of all the great efforts you have made thus far.

Of course a “Real Man” judges others based on their character as individuals and should discipline himself to withhold prejudice based on stereotyping.

Political Correctness is a control tactic, and to this point an extremely effective one, I was alive during the sixties and saw the country torn apart by the radical movements that sprang from the universities. Apply logic when you ask yourself, did students fresh out of their parents homes and at the inexperienced ages of 18 thru 21 become passionately intolerant perceived injustices they know little about? Remember, there were only 3 television channels and 3 news sources, NBC, ABC, CBS for a half hour at 6:00. I contest that they were indoctrinated to action by the faculty of radical college professors. Unbeknownst to their parents these “teachers” radicalized young student’s minds to carry out their social engineering fantasies.

A Yale professor of the Jewish faith answers all the speculation on the genesis of the movement in his book “America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture. As a man of logic, please examine the historical accounts of this movement. Keep in mind that the victors write the history and revisionist history has laid waste to the truth and replaced it propaganda. In closing, I hope you are not so comfortable with your beliefs that you see no reason to deviate from the prescriptions the Thought Police demand you ingest.


Jacob Freeman

27 Brett McKay February 25, 2014 at 1:37 pm

Re: pursue vs. procreate.

Pursue is a nice twist on procreate, especially if you’re putting manhood in a wider, more modern context and don’t want to ruffle feathers. Being the pursuer — the initiator — in courtship was certainly part of the standard for the procreator role, but it was a means to the end — the crux of the whole imperative — which was, to put it bluntly as Gilmore does, “impregnating your wife.” That end result was what mattered. So while procreate encompasses pursue, since pursue does not necessarily encompass procreate, I’d say procreate is the better word, at least when you’re discussing the traditional, ubiquitous male code around the world.

28 Brett McKay February 25, 2014 at 1:45 pm


“you…said men should restore those qualities that made this country strong but should cast in the dust bin of history those traits of Racism, Sexism and Homophobia.”

“Of course a “Real Man” judges others based on their character as individuals and should discipline himself to withhold prejudice based on stereotyping.”

Could you explain how those two statements say very different things? They seem like exactly the same thing to me so color me confused.

29 Brian February 25, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Great first series post.. I appreciate the references to other specific cultures- lends credibility for sure. Looking forward to your thoughts on the next two..

30 A 21yo February 25, 2014 at 2:25 pm

I dont have such a long or well thought comment as the other commenters here but i just wanted to let you know that this article made some of my thoughts, goals and behaviours much more clearer.

I always wanted to be a “real” man and somehow fighting (winning and losing) was always involved. I blamed genetics on that and im sure this is still right but now i understand the bigger meaning behind it.

Thank you again.
a 21yo

31 DanDaly February 25, 2014 at 3:27 pm

The value of promoting the 3 P’s in the lives of men builds honor, a desire to serve others, a strong work ethic, a commitment to charity and breeds a health respect for all members of a community. In other words – strong men who value manhood are a key ingredient to a great society.

32 John February 25, 2014 at 3:39 pm

I really enjoyed this. I believe that men in modern society are getting too far away from the values of manliness and because of this I feel that the majority of men are giving up a crucial aspect of themselves.

For example, society deems confrontation to be a bad thing, but as the majority of men now may go there entire life without really having faced a physical altercation. I sincerely believe that this weakens a man and that this will detract from his efficiency in life. Whether its speaking up to a boss and maybe getting that promotion or reacting properly to a threat to your loved ones instead of panicking, society has removed the wild beast from man and this is something that every man should stay in control of but also intimate with in order to be as successful and efficient as possible.

33 ZenLunatic February 25, 2014 at 3:48 pm

For those interested in the nature of manhood and of mankind check out ‘The Red Queen:Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature’, by Matt Ridley. It is the spot on evolutionary perspective.

34 Rick February 25, 2014 at 3:55 pm

I feel that a lot of these comments address the issue of “acting violent” versus “having the capacity for violence”. I think a lot of young men in our society confuse the two. Vicious fights out on the street to prove a point are different from a bout of fisticuffs to test each others’ strength. Likewise, to be a protector isn’t to be violent, it’s to have the capacity for violence when the situation requires it.

And since you asked Brett, this would be a good segue into manliness from a Chinese cultural perspective. I was personally born and raised in America, so my sense of manliness is still primarily based on American culture, but I’ve also been influenced by Chinese culture. It seems to me that in Chinese culture, the “stoic resolve” part of manliness is much more emphasized. There is a phrase in Chinese that literally translates to “eating bitter” – what it means is the ability of a person to stoically deal with hardship without complaining. In many ways, your protect your loved ones by keeping your head down. Similarly, Chinese martial arts folk heroes are rarely the ones to instigate violence. Instead, they will try to defuse the situation through diplomacy, and only turn to violence as a last resort (I’m sure this theme is visible in Jet Li or Jackie Chan movies).

Unfortunately, with so much emphasis on stoicism, it becomes difficult to draw the line at which a man needs to stand their ground, and this, I think, is one of the problems with Chinese culture that results in a society overrun by corruption and without strong voices to speak out in protest.

Just my two cent perspective on the question of violence and stoicism.

35 robert February 25, 2014 at 4:05 pm

Nothing to add, but did want to lend my virtual applause for the nicely handled piece.

36 ZenLunatic February 25, 2014 at 4:12 pm

Then read ‘Noble Savages’ by Napoleon Chagnon and you’ll have the spot on cultural anthropologist’s perspective.

37 ZenLunatic February 25, 2014 at 4:14 pm

Then read ‘Lord of the Flies’ by Golding and you’ll know it all.

38 Michael February 25, 2014 at 4:14 pm

Articles like this one make AoM indispensable. The ones about neckties and what to say when you meet your girlfriend’s parents are great, but these are nuggets of gold.

39 Mr. T February 25, 2014 at 4:48 pm

All this manly talk is making me hungry for a good steak followed by some sparring…

Brett, love this article. Love the 3 P’s concept. Today the role of protector is such a multifaceted thing, but physical strength plays a vital role not only in terms of brute strength but in overall health as well. A man who is not strong cannot defend his family and likewise a man who is intentionally unhealthy cannot be there for his family either. Sadly I know of many men who choose to be lazy and unhealthy and as a consequence are not adequate protectors of those around them.

40 William February 25, 2014 at 5:37 pm

First of all, I completely agree that the single best defining feature of manhood is the willingness to stand up for whatever is deemed most important, particularly one’s family.

That being said, however, I believe that some men of the past and present have been rightly called out for feeling a compulsion to constantly defend their manhood because some ludicrous adolescent said “He’s not a ‘real’ man.” Part of being a man is knowing when to engage in violence and when to ignore simple ridicule.

An older movie I recently saw illustrated this point very well. Titled “The Big Country” and starring Gregory Peck, it describes how being a real man is having courage to do what needs to be done but also how important restraint is also. Even when his honor was called into question by his fiancé, he refused to defend it on the accuser’s terms. He felt that constantly ‘proving’ one’s manhood was futile and pointless.

Do what’s right, and you will be a man, even though others may not see it.

41 Joseph February 25, 2014 at 5:57 pm

Im an Irish man living in Japan and the sense of masculinity couldnt be more different. Long gone are the days of the Samurai! Japan has a younger generation of handbag carrying men who constantly block the sinks at public toilets to groom their hair. These young men are known as herbivores in Japan. They aren’t interested in dating or getting married but rather shopping and self grooming. This frustrates Japanese women to no end. No wonder Japans birthrate has fallen so much.

42 J. Goodwin February 25, 2014 at 6:58 pm

An excellent article.

I’m looking forward to your next of the series.

43 Mosey February 25, 2014 at 9:36 pm

I’ve heard these three ideals for men, which I’ve always bought into: protect, provide, and cultivate. A man can “cultivate” in a few ways. He can cultivate the identities of his children (and of peers–why not?), and he can cultivate in terms of work (and this is his main contribution to the common good). Notably, cultivating the identities of your children necessarily includes procreating.

Yet, you might also say that procreating necessarily includes the development of your children’s identities. Either way, I agree that procreation is an absolutely fundamental ideal of manhood.

Let me also say that, as a 22-year old man, there is a lot of confusion as to what it means to be a man. It’s enormously frustrating, because I find myself asking this question: ‘What’s TRUE, though?’ So, it’s a relief when someone points out that, yes, these ideals might not be universal, but they are “highly ubiquitous.” So no, it’s not completely relative. Phew.

44 Robby February 25, 2014 at 9:52 pm

I once had a college professor who defined manliness as perfect power under perfect control. Certainly an unreachable ideal, but I thought it was an interesting take on manliness. Great post. Thanks!

45 Brett McKay February 25, 2014 at 10:29 pm


Noble Savages is indeed a great book. You can read a write-up of what I thought were the book’s most interesting insights here:

Interestingly, Chagnon and Gilmore are kind of on opposite sides of the prism through which they view cultures, with Gilmore being that thing that Chagnon most detests: a “materialist.” But I think there’s truth in both their perspectives and not all of it is mutually exclusive — there’s overlap.

46 P.M.Lawrence February 26, 2014 at 5:46 am

I believe the machine gun visible near the top of the lead picture is a Bren gun, in service since 1938, firing .303 British.

Look at the magazine on that. It’s straight, and mounted above the gun, feeding down. That means it’s almost certainly an Australian Owen submachine gun, firing pistol calibre ammunition.

47 Mitchell Knight February 26, 2014 at 6:15 am

I agree with most everything on this list, although I think there is one aspect that is a touchy topic for me, and for men in general I suppose. I think it is important to protect, to show courage and fight, but only to stay up for those you love and what you believe in, rather than to gain reputation, and earn respect. Humility is, to me, just as necessary as courage, and just as tough to live up to.

48 Nate February 26, 2014 at 6:26 am

This post was perfect. I’ve often reflected on whether or not I have the skill set to be able to protect myself and my family if ever put in that position. After some thought, I came up with…maybe. Needless to say, I’m now looking into Krav Maga at a local gym to better improve my ability to defend myself and my family. Great stuff.

49 Capt Jack February 26, 2014 at 6:53 am

Brett – Long time reader, first time poster. Great article. I appreciate your disciplined look at an obviously controversial topic. Look forward to the next instalment.

Mr. T – I think you hit it right on the head when it comes to protection, at least in 21st century western society. It isn’t just about physical altercations, but maintaining your capacity for such altercations. Physical prowess is something that not everyone is graced with at birth, but it is something that everyone can develop. I believe that doing so, and in turn insuring that you could protect your family if necessary, is or at least should be a measure of a man.

50 Ryan Davidson February 26, 2014 at 8:53 am

I am a 16 year-old reader who often wonders how to react to offense without acting out violently. Until last year really, I reacted immediately by squaring up and throwing hands with whoever it was that was heckling me. I won lots of fights, and I lost several fights. One thing that always bothered me was the way I still felt angry and offended even after the fight was over. I didn’t realize that I was fighting for nothing.

When I was a freshman, my behavioral issues led to my parents enrolling me in a military school. I had always felt like a was a really tough guy who could take a hit and dish them out two-fold. But suddenly I had been stuck in a situation where I was surrounded by juvenile delinquents, most of whom were substantially larger than me, and way, way meaner than me. My first fight at my new school led to a night’s stay in the medical ward and a week long hiatus from school due to the concussion I got. I was suddenly much quieter. I didn’t speak up on my own behalf, and I even allowed kids substantially smaller than me to tease me. Then I got a new roommate. Iverson (his first name, we all went by last names because of our name tags, but his is a very uncommon name and on the off-chance that anybody knows him or his family, I’d rather not indulge it) was kind of a wuss-puss. He was obese, clearly a momma’s-boy, and thoroughly convinced that he was next in a supposedly great line of marines from his family. His inability to face the physical and social pressures of the new school led to him soon losing his sanity. He attempted suicide, but we always found him in time to stop him. No matter how bad I got teased, he got it 10,000 times worst. One night, while we were doing our daily PT, a kid that I despised because he was a trashy redneck with a sharp tongue and a habit for picking on people he knew wouldn’t retaliate, started cussing Iverson out for not being able to perform the same number of reps as the rest of us (I really do forgot what the exercise was) and kicking him while he was on the ground. Normally I wouldn’t have felt much sympathy for Iverson, but it really had been a strenuous night of PT and he could hardly breathe. I rushed the kid and tackled him and proceeded to pummel him until my knuckles were bloody. The TAC officer came rushing outside and pulled me off. I thought for sure I was about to get it, I prepared to get chewed out. But he immediately grabbed the kid by the collar and yanked him up off the ground. He made him run two laps around the campus, about 6 miles, for beating Iverson. When he turned to me, the TAC just patted me on the back and told the rest of us to go inside and get ready for lights-out. Iverson thanked me as we walked inside, and I told him not to worry about it. But that night as I was laying in bed, I felt relaxed, rather than the stressful kind of knotting in my stomach that I was used to after a fight. I think I knew that for once, I had a good reason to be fighting, and it had actually felt rewarding. Plus, it made life a lot easier for me, and Iverson, because people didn’t want to end up like the dumb redneck kid (last time I saw him his nose was still kinda cocked to the right where I landed that first big cross).

51 Francis Marion February 26, 2014 at 9:27 am

Peter says:

“And thus war and death are born.”

Well… death is always with us. This is the nature of being human. I have always felt that the problem with modern society is less with its feminization and more with its complete divorce from reality and the nature of being human i.e.: our mortality.

My son is only 12 and each year for the past 3 (since he turned 10) I hand him a rifle and a pack and he follows me into the mountains in search of game. It is a good exercise for him even if we don’t shoot anything. It teaches him about responsibility and the nature of existence. Perseverance at 6500 feet above sea level is not simple or easy. When we connect with and take game in this environment this lesson combined with the death of another living breathing creature that will become food to sustain you is driven home in a way that his day to day surroundings cannot teach him. He is becoming a man light years ahead of his peers not because he can kill something but because he understands the gravity of life and death (the nature of his own existence) and of providing/protecting and and perseverance. He is learning the art of manliness in an age of gross moral relativism.

Great article. Sadly – I think the point of it will be missed by many. Keep up the great work anyways!

52 Maty February 26, 2014 at 9:40 am

Protect, Procreate, Provide.

Security, Sex, Stuff
Muscle, Mate, Money
Fight, Fornicate (or that other one), Finance

53 The Remnant February 26, 2014 at 10:49 am

I must part company. Societies often impose these simple roles on men to make us useful and disposable. A man has other unique qualities that are vital to society, at least a decent one: honor (keeping your word), independence (thinking for yourself), courage (willingness to fight for what you believe in), and love of truth (the refusal to accept lies or tyranny).

Modern Western society is falling apart precisely because it sees men only as sperm banks, providers, and obedient cannon fodder. If we want to preserve the flame of civilization, we must revive the qualities I mentioned, even it upsets the status quo (and it surely will).

Additionally, men are starting to learn that our lives have inherent value apart from how women and children might benefit from us. Women wanted their independence and total control over children, now they can have them while men re-discover and forge our own path.

54 NateP February 26, 2014 at 11:05 am

Hey Brett, longtime reader here, just wanted to give kudos on one of your best-written articles yet, not to mention great stuff for the male brain to chew on. Can’t wait for the next one in the series.


55 Tee Vee Free February 26, 2014 at 11:58 am

I think that self-control is more manly than procreation. Any cretin can procreate. In today’s society, procreating is the path of least resistence. Any irresponsible teenager can do it. The desire and ability of a man to do what is right; to rule his mormones, rahter than be ruled by them, is a trait sorely lacking these days. I chose not to procreate, as I will not bring children into a world where we are not free. Call that “protection” if you will- because if you live in the Western world today, you have no true way of protecting those whom you procreate from the powers that be. The ultimate effeminization is to have to refrain from disciplining your child; or to be forced to send him to a gov’t school to be taught values contrary to your own; or to make him comply with medical procedures which you know are harmful. etc. in a society where manliness is being outlawed, and where women are given artificial “rights”.

56 Ted Dubin February 26, 2014 at 1:20 pm

The Sicilian definition including cleverness is profound.

And, don’t discount the Nerd. Some posters are on to it – the Nerd is also dangerous. Sometimes more so than the Roughneck. It was the Nerds of the day that invented the knife, sword, bow, gun, tank, sub and atomic bomb. All of which probably surprised the heck out of the tough guys they faced and killed.

57 Brucifer February 26, 2014 at 2:44 pm

Alas, these days, too many men-child think their obligation to “protect” begins and ends with calling 911 and having some poor policeman risk *their own* life and limb on their behalf. … after all, that’s what the man-child pays taxes for, right? An interesting morality … or lack thereof.

58 Matthew February 26, 2014 at 3:33 pm

Great article, Brett.

I think it is important to tie core values and beliefs to discussions on these tenets of manliness. It seems like most non-passive men in 2014 are aggressive for outward manliness’ sake and not for the sake of what they truly believe in.

59 James February 26, 2014 at 3:54 pm

Another insightful and spot-on outlook about a topic that is now unfortunately becoming more and more suppressed in society, especially in our youths. The opinion in favor of keeping manliness a part of our culture is best argued the same same way almost all arguments can be proven, by comparison and proven implementation . Your article does a great job of quickly highlighting the commonalities of other cultures and their implementation of the the 3Ps, many of whom have thrived holding the tenants of manliness true to their hearts. This is a great way argue the fact that we should be doing the same here in the U.S. Gilmore’s findings that “manliness” is not just a young Americanized topic should be of no surprise. Having traveled and lived all over the world I can tell you with certainty, the desire for some aspect of masculinity or manliness is the genesis for almost every aspect of civilization we know today; from great inventions to horrible war this desire has been a huge driving force. It’s just that in most other cultures, “manliness” is not identified as being a entity unto itself. It is just an attribute a man is expected to possess. We all need to remember progressiveness does not equal progress. And while many things have changed for the better during this age of “enlightenment”, we must remember the principles, practices, and ideologies used over the past million years or so that have set us on the course to become the most dominant species on the planet. A course that if not charted carefully, can easily be reversed.

60 James February 26, 2014 at 4:39 pm

Mr. Ryan Davidson<<<<<

I just finished reading your post. You write very well for a 16 year old in "juvy" – an example of your intellectual potential that has yet to be realized. What you experienced that night while lying in bed after your fight was a sense of pride; your first step towards becoming a real man. Actually, your first step started with the right hook, but you get the point. I can relate to your experiences somewhat. I didn't always do the right things for the right reasons growing up but now I have the opportunity to see young men like yourself realize their true worth everyday and profess themselves to something greater then their own existence. Right now you may be in a troubling situation but if you can overcome it, and actually find a way to benefit from your experience, you will achieve true enlightenment and have turned a setback into an advancement. Continue to direct your actions and attentions towards things bigger than yourself and I promise you, your path will get brighter with ever expanding opportunities.

61 Matt February 26, 2014 at 4:52 pm

I think your Series Side Note might be one of the most important statements made on AoM yet. I know I’ve let my emotions dictate my opinions more than once on what it means to aspire to “manliness,” but I feel at this stage in life I can remain more open to the different views. Certainly, ignoring any evidence contrary to your assumptions is poor judgement in any case. How much I wish I had read that Side Note in high school!

Regarding the Protector role: I see You and Gilmore’s points about how men, naturally physically stronger and less critical to propagation, is more suited to the expendable protection role from society’s view. However, “expendable” is a term I’ve never really liked. If we treat men as disposable (albeit not cheaply) members of society, then I feel we disregard the potential contributions a man has beyond sacrifice for others’ survival.

If a man survives to his full life-expectancy, he can play the roles of learner, father, creator, explorer, teacher, philosopher, researcher, master, storyteller, artists, artisan, etc. Since not all men aspire to fill all of those roles, each individual thus has the potential to fill a niche and contribute uniquely to society. If he is forfeit for communal survival, then his contributions are reduced (unless his sacrifice was a major factor) to simple perpetuation of existence, rather than improving it.

Thus, rather than calling man “expendable,” which implies cheapness and lack of use, I believe “inessential” is, perhaps, a more accurate word from a societal point; individual men are not required for survival, but their individual contributions are still valuable.

62 Rick Davis February 26, 2014 at 5:35 pm

I think you got very close with the 3 P’s of manliness, but there is actually 4 P’s not 3 P’s. The Husband is to be the Provider, Protector, Prophet, and Priest. To further understand where I’m coming from, check out They have a teaching called Provider, Protector, Prophet, and Priest in Itune Podcast and/or MP3 format. God Bless You !

63 Alaska3636 February 26, 2014 at 6:39 pm

To #6 Peter:
War is born of confiscation, plunder, pillaging, conquest: certainly, a type of “provide.” Of the large scale wars, they are initiated by States for purposes/benefits of the functionaries and beneficiaries of States.
As to death, as the Onion says, “Death rates hold firm at %100.”

To Francis Marion:
I’d say that the problem all civilizations go through is the gradual and eventual disconnection between production and consumption. All civilizations have expanded and died; they have expanded through conquest, maintained by bloated bureaucracies and they paid for their armies and bureaucrats out of the wealth produced by its citizens. The system grows and grows, as it always does, until the culture shifts from producing wealth (the economic means) to merely appropriating wealth (the political means). Eventually, they run out of wealth to plunder and the serpent starts to swallow its own tail.

Also, I’d say as civilization degrades from an eventual disconnect from creation (it seems always connected with destruction); the individual eventually degrades from a disconnect from both creation (production of wealth/value) and destruction (mortality). Individuals today grow up in an environment at a complete disconnect with the wealth-building values that have created the decadence of the day. From respect for hard work, discipline, respect for the experience of elders, reducing consumption (savings), the Golden Rule, respect for the what goes into our bodies and where it comes from…Everything about Western culture today is a Hegelian, morally relativist nightmare of disconnect from the traditional values that have maintained humans against adversity for thousands, if not millions of years.

To Brett:
I have always found your site both useful and informative. This is another good article. Many people today write off the traditional values of our ancestors to easily without understanding the long-term consequences physically, emotionally and spiritually of doing so. I look forward to the next installments of this series.

64 Tatiana Covington February 26, 2014 at 7:56 pm

Who in their right mind would rationally want to procreate? There’s 7 billion of us already.

And there aren’t that many who are worth protecting.

65 Javier Villatoro February 26, 2014 at 8:08 pm

One of the most interesting and enriching posts I’ve read from you so far, manliness is one of the most important and valuable qualities that conforms the heart of a man.

66 EssDee February 27, 2014 at 12:37 am

Brett, thanks a lot for a really illuminating article. Coming from India (rapidly westernising with half a foot still rooted in our old traditions), it seems that the first things to be “westernised” are these same values, to the extent that army recruitment, for example, is now almost exclusively from the more traditional rural communities!
The atavistic need for every organism is to procreate. This is why an organism (be it a virus or homo sapiens) was put into this world. Not to be a progenitor of world peace, but to have kids (actually, to ensure survival of the DNA)! Whether 7 billion or 7000 doesn’t make a difference to the larger scheme of things. Thank God the 10,000 humans which survived the Toba catastrophe had “procreation” as one of their imperatives, else we wouldn’t have been here argung the topic!
Of course, we humans, having designated ourselves the species name of “sapiens” in an act of supreme egotism, can and do choose world peace over propagating our own DNA. But, this is a very individual decision, and best left to the person(s) concerned. And of course, you can do both!
And as for protection, a man needs to protect what HE thinks is worth protecting. Family, tribe, village, country, whatever. (of course, conscription kind of overrides this!)
So, whether your family (or country) is worth protecting is a decision best left to you. Even Germans and Japanese in the Second World War fought with immense patriotism and bravery, becasue for them, their countries were worth it!

And just by the way, the LMG in the first pic is undoubtedly a Bren. The mag is curved, although it looks somewhat straight due to the angle of the shot. Plus, the Owen had a grip (handle) for the non-trigger hand in front of the barrel (somewhat like the old 50-shot round mag Thompson 0.45 cal “Tommy” guns used by Al Capone and his pals in the movies), which the gun in the pic doesn’t. It also has the Bren-characteristic flare at the muzzle end, whereas the Owen didn’t have anything like it.
Apologies for an extra long post!

67 Deanna Chapman February 27, 2014 at 7:09 am

As a mother of three strong, manly sons I love this blog and am so happy to see the hope for manhood represented in this article and the numerous according comments. I believe it resonates with so many because it is IN them–placed there by the creator-God who made them in His image. But I couldn’t help but see that we were short at least one essential innate trait which one commenter tried to illuminate with the word humility. Close. And i tried to come up with a lovely “p” word to complete the alliteration but I think Mr. Davis has a good handle on it with the Prophet and Priest terms. In addition to giving men dominion over the earth the book of Genesis explains how man is created strategically deficient to need God and to worship Him which will help to save him from the error of considering himself a god. Also, he has been entrusted with the important role of the Stewardship of God’s word–the failure of which brought the curse of death into the world. Adam had been given instructions concerning the garden before the creation of Eve and his failure to handle these well with his wife is the reason he carries the responsibility for original sin even though she was the one deceived. I expect many to reject these concepts and continue to suppress the truth in unrighteousness but until we get a true understanding of what’s really in a man (or woman) we will always have a sense of something missing. This article is a wonderful start but lets not miss the entire reality.

68 Laura February 27, 2014 at 8:36 am

In response to: Jacob February 25, 2014 at 1:27 pm

“This acquiescence to the 3 tiers of Political Correctness propaganda caused me great distress taken in the context of all the great efforts you have made thus far.
Political Correctness is a control tactic …………..
A Yale professor of the Jewish faith answers all the speculation on the genesis of the movement in his book “America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture. As a man of logic, please examine the historical accounts of this movement. Keep in mind that the victors write the history and revisionist history has laid waste to the truth and replaced it propaganda. In closing, I hope you are not so comfortable with your beliefs that you see no reason to deviate from the prescriptions the Thought Police demand you ingest.”

Have to concur with you, Jacob
Wish more people were aware of how others, with a particular agenda, are attempting to control and mould people’s thoughts in order to effect some kind of radical change, especially the gullible youth. We see it in a lot in issues of politics, religion or morality. Was evident during the Cold War, Feminist “uprising”, many wars and conflicts, and is still very evident (and effective) today, especially in the way in which people in the West are swayed to sympathise with certain movements and organisations world-wide (UN often guilty of this, alas!).

Attempting to instil feelings of guilt in people for the way things are or aren’t in the world is an effective tactic. Propaganda has and always will be effective. It is most successful when it is done subtly, surreptitiously, and over time, under the guise of democracy, or showing tolerance. Political correctness is killing free thought and we are being manipulated.

The fact that you expressed some doubt about whether your comments would be posted is indicative of just how sensitive and ingratiating many of us have become, and how afraid we are of offending the people who are telling us how to think or become – as if that is not offensive.

It is important to remain upright and steadfast in your beliefs and personal value system, and not nervously surrender to the dictates of others.

69 Porter Long February 27, 2014 at 8:38 am

Brett, what happened to preside?

70 MattfromPoland February 27, 2014 at 8:42 am

I’m with you guys, but while reading I had these contrarian thoughts that I believe are valid.

In my opinion, without any context, a praise for the “3P-Man” sounds today like a call to laborious farming in a lush paradise of abundant food, eager sexual partners and a lack of threat to life.

I feel some key things are missing in this article and discussion:
1. it is the structure of the society that pushes men into roles;
2. men do not want to be socially inferior unless satisfactorily recompensed.
3. manliness is a means, not an end.

@ 1. Case in point: the macho model was created by the society not because it fits well with a male potential but only in the environment where it was useful. This applied mostly to the relatively secluded mountain or rural peripheries that warranted a tight-knit and highly controlling hierarchy to protect the limited resources to survive.

@2. When given a choice by industrial progress, men on their own flee the pyramid shaped macho societies, to the more flat and anonymous urban environment where they get more of the socio-economic benefits for less effort.

@ 3. Throughout history, most men who achieved absolute and unthreatened power in their societies – kings, ceasars, aristocrats and the filthy rich – did not use it to prove their manliness to even greater degrees (say, by participating in fights, child-rearing and providing the needy) but to fulfill their desires as much as possible with as little work.

The 3P framework that is the focus of the attention here used to be prevalent because it was useful, for men, women and the society at large. Nowadays, if you notice, an average urban-living woman can rely on the law & the police and be alone (without her mate) most of the time of the day, so the **protector** role is limited to the security forces. A modern woman is also encouraged to compete in the workplace the same way men do, so usually she can easily **provide** for herself. And **procreation** seems to be discouraged in favor of longer sexual activity with as many partners as possible.

My suggestion is this:

**Show us some modern reasons for manliness.** If manliness is not useful today, it doesn’t matter that it was always culturally praised in the past. Manliness is not what we men want. It is not cool in itself. In our time, a “3P manliness” usually means that while I made some sacrifice – train to be able to ‘protect’, share my earnings to be able to ‘provide’ and be faithful to my wife and children – the other guy gets to live the life I desire : more freedom, more women, more money, more stuff and higher social status.

71 Deanna Chapman February 27, 2014 at 8:59 am

As a mother of three strong, manly sons I love this blog and am so happy to see the hope for manhood represented in this article and the numerous according comments. I believe it resonates with so many because it is IN them–placed there by the creator-God who made them in His image. But I couldn’t help but see that we were short at least one essential innate trait which one commenter tried to illuminate with the word humility. Close. And i tried to come up with a lovely “p” word to complete the alliteration but I think Mr. Davis has a good handle on it with the Prophet and Priest terms. In addition to giving men dominion over the earth the book of Genesis explains how man is created strategically deficient to need God and to worship Him which will help to save him from the error of considering himself a god. Also, he has been entrusted with the important role of the Stewardship of God’s word–the failure of which brought the curse of death into the world. Adam had been given instructions concerning the garden before the creation of Eve and his failure to handle these well with his wife is the reason he carries the responsibility for original sin even though she was the one deceived. I expect many to reject these concepts and continue to suppress the truth in unrighteousness but until we get a truer understanding of what’s really in a man (or woman) we will always have a sense of something missing. This article is a wonderful start but lets not miss the entire reality.

72 James February 27, 2014 at 9:26 am

I think this is an incredibly valuable post which opens up a discursive space for a topic that is being suppressed for its supposed misogyny and backwardness. That said, I think an important piece of the conversation is recognizing what pieces of manhood are fundamental, and what are socially constructed for the advantage of a meme. Here in the area of “protection” for instance, one might note how civilizations and other groups have twisted male protection ideals into male disposability– the concept that males are so less valuable than females to a society that their loss is insignificant on a whole.

73 Brett McKay February 27, 2014 at 1:36 pm


Yes, some very valid points there and indeed this post admittedly lacks the context of where the 3 P’s originate, but that is because we plan to do a separate post on that subject.

It is indeed the environment that creates manliness. In harsh environments where resources are scarce and there is danger from nature and from human enemies, a standard of manhood is erected to motivate men to overcome their natural passivity and timidity in order to provide and protect the tribe. Society needs men to perform these duties in order to survive. When resources are no longer scarce, manhood is no longer much needed, which is why in our time of modern abundance, manliness is not much emphasized. We have the luxury of ignoring it.

I would disagree with you, however, that manhood’s 3 imperatives emerge and are enforced by a tight-knit and highly-controlling hierarchy in a pyramid-shaped society. Actually, if you look at primitive tribes, where the “cult of manhood,” as Gilmore calls it, was strongest, they were not very hierarchical at all. There were sometimes chiefs or “Big Men” but they didn’t have much power. The groups were pretty egalitarian. (If you’re interested in this topic, I would recommend the book mentioned above — Noble Savages by Napoleon Chagnon). Manliness was instead enforced peer to peer, by the community as a whole, through a culture of honor and shame. In fact, an emphasis on manhood actually goes down where there is a controlling hierarchy in place, as all the 3 P’s are contingent on personal autonomy, independence, and freedom of movement. A man must be able to earn more merit and honor through his striving.

As to the question of whether there’s any reason to live manliness today, that’s something we’ll cover in the aforementioned separate post as well. You’re right that in a society of abundance, some men don’t have to sacrifice for the good of society and can go their own way and contribute nothing. Of course, if every man decided to do this, the world would go to pot, and we’d be back to a more primitive-level of life, making manliness once again needed. There’s a group of men out there that think that’s a good thing and actively embrace bringing it about — they say, live selfishly, let the world burn down, and then men will be needed and appreciated again.

But then, if the world did go to pot, if you had been living only for yourself, you wouldn’t be very ready to survive and thrive in such a post-apocalyptic world, would you? Manliness isn’t needed, until it is, and I prefer to operate by the principle of “always ready.”

But what’s the motivation to be always ready rather than following one’s baser desires? Well, that’s more of a philosophical question. I want to provide and protect because I love my family and want the best for them. But then the question becomes, why have a family at all? Well, the crux of the matter is this: will more stuff and more sex actually lead to more happiness and fulfillment, the attainment of the good life? Or will family and leaving the world a better place actually bring you more satisfaction? Certainly no one can “prove” the answer to these questions, but I’m pretty sure you can guess what I would say.

74 Josh February 27, 2014 at 5:03 pm

The lesson I took away from this was this line.

“It must show a public demonstration of positive choice, of jubilation even in pain, for its represents a moral commitment to defend the society and its core values against all odds.”

Standing up for what you believe in, whether or not that requires violence. It made me think of Atticus Finch in To kill a mockingbird

75 Charlie February 27, 2014 at 8:57 pm

When I first stumbled upon your site, I considered it pretty much a joke. But as I have began reading your articles I have become converted to what you are doing here. 1 Define what truly is manly. 2 Explain why it is manly. 3 Inspire more males (both young and old) to begin to be or return to being a truly respected MAN. This has been your BEST article so far and I look forward to the completion of the series.

76 Joel February 28, 2014 at 12:55 am

First of all, thanks for the thoughtful content that you disseminate through this website! I have a bit of a dilemma that relates to this post. I’m 29, and I’ve been trying to build a career in the corporate world. My friends and family have seen me struggle. They see that I can’t seem to hold down a job so they conclude that there must be something wrong with me, that I’m not much of a man. The trouble is, the companies I’ve worked for don’t seem to care much about being a man. Those that keep their jobs are those that are quiet, timid, compliant and indifferent to change. Those that get promoted are those that buy into the scheme of whoever happens to be in charge. They take no moral issue in distorting or manipulating anything, as long as it’s in their favor. They are chameleons who stand for nothing themselves. You see I’m not like either of these types. I’m efficient and hard working but I’m also outspoken, critical, passionate and undiplomatic. I actually care about the integrity of my work and the future of the company. But I always seem to lose my job whenever I make a stand. So my question is this: if to be manly is to provide, but to provide means to let go of everything that I consider to be good and manly, how do I provide in a manly way? Should I just accept the unspoken rules of the corporate culture and try to win the game as it’s played by the people who are winning it? Has anybody else reading this post experienced anything similar in the corporate world?

77 Matt March 1, 2014 at 11:12 pm

Like somebody else said, where is preside? Preside, provide, and protect, it’s what the Proclamation says!

78 BattleHard173 March 2, 2014 at 1:01 am

“People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” George Orwell (Grenier?)

79 BattleHard173 March 2, 2014 at 1:23 am

@The Remnant

“A man has other unique qualities that are vital to society, at least a decent one: honor (keeping your word), independence (thinking for yourself), courage (willingness to fight for what you believe in), and love of truth (the refusal to accept lies or tyranny).”

None of these things is unique to men, and on more than one occasion I have seen women and children exhibit them to great effect. However Brett has quoted within this article possible and specific biological imperative for these possible “manly” traits he outlines. This if nothing else speaks to the way they are woven within us and through them, how men find the other things you mentioned within themselves that are not altogether unique. Likewise, to say that society has become less decent is severely subjective and simply doesn’t hold water.

I personally became acquainted with my protector self while deployed with the Army. Combatives tournaments and shooting contests helped to discover the weak links and enforce a higher standard of training. Much like Brett has nicely outlined in the article. This culminated in its obvious use protecting one another during firefights, made easier by the way we raised one another up as a tribe through physical contest.

Nice article, nice food for thought.

80 Michael B. March 2, 2014 at 9:21 am

I hope the following “Ps” are a little more fleshed-out.

I was excited for this one. Really excited.

I think forgetting about that “Protector” role is a large portion of what’s missing in modern marriages and families.

Men failing to protect their wives, thus their families, thus their children.

I would have like to have had more fleshing out of that protector role, and a little less about wrestling.

It seems to me that the physical aspect of manliness – the exhibition of horseplay, wrestling, etc is by far and large a young man’s game of learning the ropes and establishing their position. But, as we progress in age, the role changes, and our exhibitions are based on proclaiming that position without further need to exhibit (think; trading war stories). We follow that with guidance, knowledge, and sharing of experience… mentoring.

It really strikes me as such when reading of the Shaman of the Northwest Indian tribes. While they go out to find their power as young men, a Shaman is not a “Doctor” until he is age 40 or older. It is then that he can use his “Power.”

There is more…. but… this comment is long enough!

81 LJ March 3, 2014 at 12:22 pm

One thing I appreciate about this blog is that it generally, and in my mine correctly, treats manliness as a stand alone ideal. Manliness can be without having to compare or complain about womanliness. For that reason, being a woman, I hardly ever comment.
However, since you can’t be protective unless their is something to protect,, and since the implication is that the object is women and children, I thought it would be ok to throw in my thoughts.
I had protective parents, but there was a key difference. One worried the other taught, one would not want me to drive around in my old beater fo a car, the other would come pick me up when it got stuck. One would remind me of all the time I needed help, the other would express pride when I figured things out on my own. It hardly matters which gender each parent was, because one modeled possessiveness, the other empowerment.
Whenever I see a friend with a bully of a husband, he is always over-protective, doesn’t want her to go anywhere without him, tries to make her feel unsafe on her own. Campare this with the men who have taught me how to change a tire and how to throw a punch. They didn’t think sharing knowledge with me would diminish them. They didn’t ever tell me I couldn’t do it as well as a man. These were the men, not the protector-bullies, that I would have trusted with my life.

82 LJ March 3, 2014 at 12:44 pm

I would sincerely recommend that you go into business on your own. If you are as principled, as knowledgeable, as bold and as hard-working as you say you are, you will experience success.
If not, maybe you will be forced to look yourself in the mirror, and whisper these terrifying words, “Maybe, the problem is me.”

83 Damon March 4, 2014 at 1:48 pm

Definitely interested in checking out Manhood in the Making after this post. It’s curious that so many cultures have similar ideas as to what sort of ideal men should strive toward. Do you think the same could be said for women across cultures?

84 Ismael March 5, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Sublime series and a great read!

85 Anna April 11, 2014 at 8:48 pm

Wow, I feel like an intruder commenting on this post given that:
1. I’m a woman
2. A non-American, actually non-Western woman
3. English isn’t my first language
I have a question though with regard to what “being a protector” is supposed to mean for a man. The post stresses on the physical abilities of a man, his fearlessness, etc and I must admit a huge part of me cannot agree more. Yet, in real life, if I have to choose between a muscular man who isn’t afraid and a less buffed but WISE one, I’ll pick up the second one to protect me. Indeed, I for one, as a woman who didn’t grow up in sheltered Western environments where men start understanding the meaning of responsibilities after making tons of mistakes, I feel more protected by a man whose life shows that he has good decisions-making skills. I like how in one post of this series, it was mentioned that in the Sicilian culture, a real man is expected to be a little bit cunning. In my culture, I’d call it a great deal of common sense, wisdom and street smarts, that only life AND your ELDERS’ experiences can teach you. Our boys used to go through initiation rites before officially being called men. Since the day they were born, they were prepared for that moment of their lives: old proverbs, ancient tales were conveyed from an early age, so that they understand that life’s hard and complex and some times, your physical prowess will not be of that much use to protect your family. Unfortunately, we got colonialism, then globalization and our boys, men think that protecting us mean looking like Schwarzenegger and acting like Stallone in a Rambo or Rocky movie. How am I protected if my husband doesn’t know how to read people and situations, if all he can do is being surprised or worse overwhelmed, whenever life throws curveballs at him, us? Good judgment skills should be part of the set of abilities, men should have when it comes to protecting. There should be a mental component in the “protect” part of Western contemporary definition of manliness. Why do you think men do not commit suicides in certain parts of the world despite all the hardships those people experience? (No social stigma has nothing to do with it). Besides, correct me, if I’m wrong, didn’t most of those great warriors in ancient Greece, spend time in their childhood and adolescence, with philosophers to develop and hone their decision/leadership skills? Basically, what I’m saying is that, between Bruce Banner and Hulk, I’ll go with the first one because an effective protection require brains. Brawn without brains is a no-no for me, especially in the 21st century, when life’s threats and/or difficulties aren’t only physical.

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