Why boys commit more suicide as their sex roles become apparent
ITEM When a Trukese boy (л the western Pacific islands) has a troubled relationship, he is expected to respond by displaying amwunumwvn, a kind of emotional withdrawal. Trukese males commit suKide 25 times more often than their American male counterparts.8
/’Headolescent boys and girls express emotions equally and commit suicide at about the same rate. It is adolescence that also pressures American boys (as it does the Trukese boys) to withdraw emotionally. And it is adolescence during which boys* suicide rate goes from slightly less than girls* to four times as great as girls’.9
For both sexes, adolescence sharpens sex-role anxiety like a pencil sharpener sharpens a pencil; the fear of rejection creates an emotional state as fragile as the sharpened pencil’s point. Less attractive girls feel especially vulnerable… as vulnerable as they feel invisible. As for the more attractive girl, she eventually senses her dependency on a power that will fade, and as boys compete for her attention as if she were a celebrity, she becomes, in essence, a genetic celebrity – and genetic celebrities become entitlement dependent As difficult as this is for girls, I believe that something is happening to boys during this time that makes suicide a greater probability.
By addicting boys more to girls’ bodies than vice versa, we make boys feel less than equal to girls. This reinforces boys performing for girls, pursuing girls, and paying for girls to compensate for their inequality. When they perform and pursue inadequately – or feel they will never be able to earn enough to afford what they are addicted to – this creates anxiety which, in its extreme form, leads to suicide, f^rforming, pursuing, and paying – the three Ps – are so anxiety provoking because the boy senses these are metaphors for adult versions of performing, pursuing, and paying. (So if he can’t hack it when he’s a kid … )
The adolescent boy notices that the boys who get the "love" of the genetic celebrity are best able to:
► Perform. Become a leader (jock, student-body president), have potential, or have a car.
► Pursue. She has the option to pursue, he has the expectation. He is supposed to understand female cues when he doesn’t even understand himself. To the degree the girl doesn’t understand herself, his fear of misreading what can’t be read becomes overwhelming. His hormones prepare him to reach out for sex but not for the rejection. He is supposed to initiate sex perfectly before he knows what sex is. He knows he wants to be sexual with girls; he’s not sure if they want to be sexual with him (and the girls he’s most interested in reject him the most). And nowadays if he misinterprets a cue, he could be in jail. Not true for her. This creates some anxiety.
► Pay. The greater her beauty, the more he will have to pay – and therefore earn.
These three Ps are what boys learn they must do to earn their way to equality with girls’ love. The teenage female has her own set of anxieties but has, on aitrage, less demand to perform and more resources to attract love. Her body and mind are more genetic gifts. Thus, a popular girl is more a genetic celebrity, a popular boy more an earned celebrity’. The more he is addicted to the genetic celebrity, the more he must become the earned celebrity.
The demand to perform without the resources to perform
What makes a teenage boys anxiety’ so overwhelming is that a teenage boy’s socialization is the demand to perform without the resources to perform. As a result, not only are his risks many, but his failures many – and so apparent. Almost every boy feels like a silent member of the Frequent Failures Club.
Second, the biggest winners – the football players – are receiving love via self-abuse. For some boys, receiving love via self-abuse creates anxiety. But losing love creates even more anxiety. So he is caught between the anxiety of abuse by boys and the anxiety’ of rejection by girls.
The boy who performs mentally but not physically (the “nerd”) is having his identity formed during years when the boys he least respects are getting the "love” of the girls he most desires. On the other hand, the boy who performs physically but not menially often fears his hero days will end with the last day of high school.
Neither the short-term winners nor the short-term losers have the meaning of all this sorted out. Nor do you hear them talk about it. The anxiety – tightens the stomach, is numbed by alcohol, and vented behind the wheel of a car When a teenage male is fifteen times more likely than the average driver to unwittingly kill someone with his car,10 male socialization has combined with technology to transform the protector as killer of the enemy into protector as random access killer. It is tantamount to the random release of killers.
As a boy sees no alternative to performing, as each ritual highlights his inadequacy amid his search for identity, as he is without permission to speak with his peers of his fears, his isolation and self-doubt become his suicide. Thus boys’ suicide rate goes from less than girls’ to four times greater than girls’."