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The 3 P’s of Manhood: A Review
Posted By Brett On March 31, 2014 @ 4:49 pm In A Man's Life,On Manhood | 44 Comments
Are men everywhere alike in their concern (and desire) for being manly?
Is the concept of manliness meaningless and entirely culturally relative?
For the last several weeks we have been exploring the answers to these questions by discussing the findings contained in Dr. David D. Gilmore’s Manhood in the Making .
Twenty years ago, Gilmore set out to conduct an exhaustive cross-cultural analysis of how masculinity is perceived and lived around the world.
What he discovered was that far from being exceptional and widely divergent, conceptions of what constitutes a “real man” have been common and consistent through time and around the world. A distinct code of manhood has not only been part of nearly every society on earth — whether agricultural or urban, premodern or advanced, patriarchal or relatively egalitarian — these codes invariably contain the same three imperatives; a male who aspires to be a man must protect , procreate , and provide .
As the subject is a fascinating and vital one, we have given each of these “3 P’s of Manhood” a thorough treatment. It was definitely a lot to take in; it’s really turned into a kind of Manhood 101 course! So today, for those who didn’t make it through the beastly posts, and for those who did but could use a quick re-orientation, today we’re providing a crib sheet that distills what we have covered thus far down to the basic fundamentals.
The essence of protection is the “need to establish and defend boundaries.” Boundaries create a sense of identity and trust. Should that line be crossed, men will spring into action. Men are called on to guard the perimeter between danger and safety, protecting tribe and family from predators, human enemies, and natural disasters.
A man adds to his individual honor by developing and demonstrating prowess in the protector role. At the same time, he bolsters his community’s reputation for strength as well, as the tribe’s overall reputation serves as a form of protection in and of itself — functioning as a deterrent to attack.
The protector role requires:
Why men were historically given this role:
The imperative to procreate essentially requires that a man act as pursuer of a woman, successfully impregnate her, and thus create a “large and vigorous family” that expands his lineage as much as possible.
The procreator role requires:
Why men were historically given this role:
The essence of provision is the ability to tame nature, to turn chaos into order, to take the raw materials of life and transform them into something of value. It involves, as Gilmore puts it, “purposive construction” — “commanding and assertive action that adds something measurable to society’s store.”
Hunting is the “provisioning function par excellence,” for it involves all the manly attributes (physical strength, mastery of tools, discipline and determination, initiative, etc.) and is a creative act that parallels battle, sport, and sex.
The provider role requires:
Why were men were historically given this role:
There are several shared standards and necessary prerequisites that are common to all three of the P’s of Manhood:
The 3 P’s of Manhood emphasize and exaggerate the distinct biological potentialities of men, motivating them to channel that potential in service to the greater good.
The manly imperatives can be seen as having a dual nature and purpose: they are both civic duties and personal development pathways that (if the prerequisites above are met) simultaneously benefit both a man’s community and the man personally.
We’ll explore this dynamic and its implications in a modern world where manhood isn’t honored or valued in the final two posts in this series.
Across cultures and time, the journey to manhood has been considered a three-fold path. Manhood can be viewed as a mighty edifice that must be built with three pillars of support. If one of the pillars is missing or weakened, too much stress is placed on the remaining pillars, twisting and contorting them.
For example, in a time where most men aren’t called upon to be protectors, and may have an unsatisfying, uncreative job, the procreator pillar (at least the sex part of it) can seem the only remaining way to demonstrate one’s manhood. Designed to be just one part of a man’s multi-faceted life, the pillar of procreation is forced to support much more weight than it was intended, turning sex into an unhealthy obsession.
Each of the pillars is important, and each interacts and interrelates with the others. For example, a man who demonstrates prowess as a protector can win the respect of his fellow men who then wish to partner with him in hunting/business, offering him the chance to become a better provider. And a man who is a better provider will attract more women, leading to the opportunity to become a procreator. The pillars cannot be completely separated either; a man will not be considered manly if he, say, fathers a brood of progeny, but fails to provide for them.
A failure to contribute in one or more of the manly imperatives is considered shameful, even if this failure is due to a disability or circumstance outside the man’s control. But a man can mitigate this shame if he seeks to find other ways to pull his own weight by striving for greater excellence in the charges in which he can contribute. For example, a frail man might still strengthen his tribe by developing technological innovations. An infertile man might work to become a mighty warrior or a matchless hunter. However he can, a man tries not to be a burden to others.
The greatest shame and scorn is reserved for a man who can’t, or won’t, strive in the pursuits of manhood – and doesn’t care either. He may denigrate the ideals of masculinity, evince indifference to the importance of a manly reputation, or attempt to move the goal posts on manhood to better match his own personal aptitudes and proclivities. For example, a man who is frail but has a keen intellect may say, “There’s nothing manly about being strong. That’s for dumb meatheads. A real man cultivates his mind.” Or a man who can’t, or does not want to have children may say, “What’s manly about being a dumb breeder? Any idiot can knock a woman up. A man knows what he wants, and I don’t want to ever have children.”
An honorable man says, “I cannot contribute in this manly role, and I admit I fall short in this area of the manly code. But I understand why this standard is part of the code and I respect it. I will strive to be excellent where I can and seek to contribute in other ways.”
When anthropologist Michael Herzfeld made a study of the culture in a small village in Crete, he found that the men distinguished between two standards of manhood: being a good man and being good at being a man. The 3 P’s are the requirements of earning the latter designation.
Being a good man means living the “higher” moral virtues – having a virtuous character. Goodness involves seeking Beauty, Truth, Wisdom, and Justice, and being kind, honest, and true. It is about utilizing all of one’s human potential, achieving what the ancient Greeks called eudemonia – a truly flourishing life. Being a good man is not much different than being a good woman, and it is thus a definition that has more to do with how a man is different than a child, than how a man is different from a woman.
Being good at being a man means being able to perform the male role competently – to be a proficient protector, procreator, and provider, to be willing to take public risks, face danger, work hard, take action, compete fiercely, seek strength, and solve problems. It is focused on utilizing one’s distinctly masculine potential. Being good at being a man is both about how a man differs from a child and how he differs from a woman.
Being a good man is a philosophical category of manliness.
Being good at being a man is an anthropological category of manliness.
The first emerges from our minds — a desire to form an ideal.
The second emerges from the realities of biology, evolution, and the environment.
It is possible to be good at being a man, without also being a good man. For example a mob boss has a dangerous job, supports his family, and is highly resourceful. He also whacks people on a whim. He’s not a good man, but he’s good at being a man. He does actually live the 3 P’s. Which is why, even though we might not want to emulate him, we still can’t help but to think of him as pretty manly. Think Walter White for a modern pop culture example – audiences still wanted to root for him in spite of all the horrendous things he did (and wanted to lambast Skyler White for her desire to seek the truth and turn in Walt). The moral side of our brains tells us that he’s not a “real man” but at the gut-level we feel a degree of ancient, amoral respect.
While it’s possible to be good at being a man, without being a good man, as we shall see next time, the reverse is not true.
In writing this conclusion, and all the posts in this series, I have struggled with whether to use the present or the past tense. On the one hand, what I have outlined here has been true in nearly every culture for thousands of years, and continues to be true in many cultures still today. On the other hand, these tenets of the ancient code of manhood are greatly challenged, changed, and criticized in the modern Western world. But because our modern society represents such a tiny blip in the grand sweep of history, and because there are still strong echoes of this code even today, I ultimately decided to use the language of the present in this piece.
At the start of this series, I wrote that in our current culture some people think manliness is altogether meaningless, and some recognize its reality but fall into one of three camps: 1) the code of manhood should continue on much as it has for thousands of years, 2) the code of manhood is offensive/damaging/irrelevant and should be dropped altogether, or 3) there are some parts of the code that should be retained, while others should be jettisoned.
Hopefully, the first three articles in this series have shown that the first contention – the idea that manliness is meaningless – is thoroughly untenable.
Before you decide where you fall as to the three other possible positions, come along for the last three articles in the series. Here’s where Manhood 101 is going next:
Read the rest of the series:
Part I – Protect 
Part II – Procreate 
Part III – Provide 
Part V – What is the Core of Masculinity 
Part VI – Where Does Manhood Come From? 
Part VII – Why Are We So Conflicted About Manhood? 
Article printed from The Art of Manliness: http://www.artofmanliness.com
URL to article: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2014/03/31/the-3-ps-of-manhood-a-review/
URLs in this post:
 Manhood in the Making: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0300050763/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0300050763&linkCode=as2&tag=stucosuccess-20
 protect: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2014/02/24/the-3-ps-of-manhood-protect/
 procreate: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2014/03/03/the-3-ps-of-manhood-procreate/
 provide: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2014/03/19/the-3-ps-of-manhood-provide/
 in the arena: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2009/02/28/manvotional-the-man-in-the-arena-by-theodore-roosevelt/
 create more and consume less: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2010/04/06/modern-maturity-create-more-consume-less/
 Part V – What is the Core of Masculinity: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2014/04/07/what-is-the-core-of-masculinity/
 Part VI – Where Does Manhood Come From?: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2014/04/21/where-does-manhood-come-from/
 Part VII – Why Are We So Conflicted About Manhood?: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2014/04/23/why-are-we-so-conflicted-about-manhood-in-the-modern-age/
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