Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men

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Why do so many guys seem stuck between adolescence and adulthood? Why do so many of them fail to launch? Just what is going on with America's young men?

The passage from adolescence to adulthood was once clear, coherent, and relatively secure: in their late teenage years and early twenties, guys "put away childish things" and entered their futures as responsible adults. Today growing up has become more complex and confusing as young men drift casually through college and beyond—hanging out, partying, playing with tech toys, watching sports. But beneath the appearance of a simple extended boyhood, a more dangerous social world has developed, far away from the traditional signposts and cultural signals that once helped boys navigate their way to manhood.

The average young American man today is moving through a new stage of development, a buddy culture unfazed by the demands of parents, girlfriends, jobs, kids, and other nuisances of adult life. Sociologist and gender studies authority Michael Kimmel has identified this territory as "Guyland," a place that is both a stage of life and a new social arena.

Guyland is the locker room writ large: the world where young men both test and prove themselves as men and develop the defining attitudes and self-images they will carry into adulthood. Kimmel has interviewed hundreds of young men ages sixteen to twenty-six in high schools and college fraternity houses, military academies and sports bars, to better understand Guyland's rules and restrictions, its layers of peer pressure and gender policing, its features and artifacts—from the ordinary (video games, sports, andmusic) to the extreme (violent fraternity initiations, sexual predation).

In mapping the social world where tomorrow's men are made, Kimmel offers a view into the minds and times of America's sons, brothers, and boyfriends, and works toward redefining what it means to be a man today—and tomorrow. Only by understanding this world and this life stage can we enable young men to chart their own paths, to stay true to themselves, and to travel safely through Guyland, emerging as responsible and fully formed men of integrity and honor.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

To a growing list of books about the myths and mysteries of American boys and young males, Kimmel, a sociologist and author of Manhood In America, adds this deft exploration grounded in research. Based on more than 400 interviews, over a four-year span, with young men ages 16-26, Kimmel's study shows that the guys who live in "Guyland" are mostly white, middle-class, totally confused and cannot commit to their relationships, work or lives. Although they seem baffled by the riddles of manhood and responsibility, they submit to the "Guy Code," where locker-room behaviors, sexual conquests, bullying, violence and assuming a cocky jock pose can rule over the sacrifice and conformity of marriage and family. Obsessed with never wanting to grow up, this demographic, which is 22 million strong, craves video games, sports and depersonalized sexual relationships. In the end, Kimmel offers a highly practical guide to male youth. (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
Guys just wanna have fun. Kimmel (Sociology/SUNY Stony Brook; Manhood in America: A Cultural History, 2005, etc.) offers an engaging account of young males in the "Guyland" stage of life-the years between 16 and 26-when they are neither kids nor grown-ups but rather direction-less "guys" who shirk adult responsibilities and bond crudely with other males in the nonstop pursuit of sex, drinking, sports, video games and other amusements. Based on nearly 400 interviews with mainly white, middle-class, college-educated youths, the author's findings are at once commonsensical and provocative, demonstrating the prevalence of this lifestyle of entitlement and instant gratification. The book raises important questions about a "guy code" of silence that encourages them to disregard the sometimes extreme behaviors (binge drinking, bullying, predatory sex, etc.) of other males. Made possible by massive social and economic changes-the sexual revolution, delayed marriage and child-rearing, the poor job market-members of this 22-million-strong demographic live in the shared-apartments world of Friends, absorbed in escapist entertainment (porn, online poker), getting as much sex as they can, working in dead-end "McJobs" and avoiding serious, responsible lives as fathers and workers. Kimmel quotes guys from across the country to show the importance of "the cardinal rule of masculinity-"Don't cry," their obsession with sports talk ("the last 'pure' all-male space in America") and their reliance on their peers to usher them into adulthood. Parents with young-adult males living at home will immediately recognize these guys, who stay up all hours with media, engage in casual sex and maintain a manly frontat all times with the putdown, "That's so gay." Bored, anxious, uncertain and ill-prepared for emotional intimacy, they are in need of adult mentoring and a new model of masculinity, says Kimmel, one that encourages them to live more consciously and honorably while permitting "wholesome occasional irresponsibility."A useful, highly readable overview of an important social phenomenon.
Gloria Steinem
“Michael Kimmel’s Guyland could save the humanity of many young men-and the sanity of their friends and parents-by explaining the forces behind a newly extended adolesence. With accuracy and empathy, he names the problem and offers compassionate bridges to adulthood.”
Mary Pipher
“Just as Reviving Ophelia introduced readers to the culture of teenage girls, Guyland takes us to the land of young men.”
Madeline Levine
“An absolute bombshell of a book. A disturbing, but mandatory wake-up call for all of us who are boys, love boys or raise boys.”
Arlie Hochschild
Kimmel calls on us all to see the boy in the pseudo-man, to break the silence with which we surround them, and do what it takes to help them grow into real men.”
Rachel Simmons
“For anyone who has ever longed to know what’s really going on in a young man’s life, rejoice: Guyland is a compassionate, unflinching dispatch from deep in the heart of young masculinity. Required reading for people who raise, teach, and love guys.”
Michael G. Thompson
“Every parent who is about to write a check for college tuition should read this book first and discuss it with his or her son...and daughter.”
William Pollack
“Guyland takes up where Real Boys left off...a must-read for parents, teachers, coaches, young women who are so confused by the guys in their midst-and for guys themselves who yearn to break free of unwritten rules that leave them half a man, rather than a whole person.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060831349
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/26/2008
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

A leading scholar in the field of gender studies, Michael Kimmel is author or editor of more than twenty volumes on the subject, including the groundbreaking Manhood in America. A professor of sociology, he teaches at State University of New York, Stony Brook, and lives with his family in Brooklyn, New York.

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Table of Contents

1 Welcome to Guyland 1

2 "What's the Rush?": Guyland as a New Stage of Development 24

3 "Bros Before Hos": The Guy Code 44

4 High School: Boot Camp for Guyland 70

5 The Rites of Almost-Men: Binge Drinking, Fraternity Hazing, and the Elephant Walk 95

6 Sports Crazy 123

7 Boys and Their Toys: Guyland's Media 144

8 Babes in Boyland: Pornography 169

9 Hooking Up: Sex in Guyland 190

10 Predatory Sex and Party Rape 217

11 Girls in Guyland: Eyes on the Guys 242

12 "Just Guys" 265

Endnotes 291

Index 317

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2008

    Book of the Year?

    Kimmel deserves tremendous praise for his in-depth analysis of the culture of young men in America. While we may not like all that he has to say, we cannot escape the reality that he depicts. I read this book cover to cover in 2 days and only wished it was longer! This is a must-read for all young people and their parents.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 13, 2014

    Bad science. Plain and simple. Guyland is not some great specter

    Bad science. Plain and simple. Guyland is not some great specter through which all men must traverse as the author so brazenly claims in this shoddy piece of research. It's a space through which a segment of the is exposed to. His 'research' (read as giant leaps from the facts) only serves to force non- white, non-heterosexual, non-middle/upper class, transgendered, men into a nonexistent space. We are not men by his measure. And our experiences clearly have no place in guyland. I am a guy. I am a researcher. I am not an occupant of this guyland. Infuriated by this ridiculous reduction of male-ness.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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