Salvo 03.17.2023 5 minutes

Men in Crisis

Rear View Of Man Sitting On Bed

Desperation and depression mark American masculinity.

The United States is far from united. More than 60 percent of the country’s young men are now single; that’s nearly twice the rate of single young women. Males are now responsible for 80 percent of suicides, according to the CDC. Every 13.7 minutes, somewhere in the U.S., a man takes his own life. The masculinity crisis is real, and it’s getting worse.

Why is this the case?

Research shows that reciprocal love is a strong predictor of happiness and mental well-being. Sadly, a growing number of men can’t even find a date, let alone a long-term partner. Instead of finding love, more men are finding themselves alone, turning to pornography, video games, and hard drugs to ease the pain. 

Alex DatePsych, a behavioral science researcher who studies intersexual dynamics for a living, told me that the sex drought could be occurring for a variety of reasons. Sexual inactivity has been increasing since the turn of the century. However, in recent years, the drought has become particularly severe. Over the course of a calendar year,  roughly one-third of men between the ages of 18 and 24 don’t have any sexual encounters. Some 7 percent of men between the ages of 20 and 30, according to Alex’s research, have had zero sexual encounters in the past five years. One reason why so many young men are single and sexless, notes Alex, may have something to do with the fact that women tend to date older men (usually 5 to 15 years their senior). 

Alcohol—or more specifically, the lack of alcohol being consumed—must also be factored in. Young people drink far less than previous generations. Though a decline in binge drinking among youth is a cause for celebration, the reasons for it are grim. Youth aren’t drinking because they simply aren’t going out. And if you don’t go out and socialize, then, how can you hope to meet a romantic partner? The young people of today are not judicious sages, hyperaware of the risks that come with binge drinking and casual sex; they are more like hermetic monks, oblivious to the possibilities that exist out there, in the real world.

A less obvious reason for the sex drought is extended adolescence and more risk-averse behavior in young adults. “We see fewer young adults getting driver’s licenses,” Alex said, “fewer young adults working, and in particular fewer young men entering the university in young adulthood.” Moreover, an increasing number of young adults are living at home now. These are all ingredients for sexless singledom. The “NEET” category—“not in employment, education, or training”—often called “disconnected youth,” represents a solid 12 percent of the population between the ages of 16 and 24; young men are disproportionately included among the disconnected.

There is a profound connection between sex and long-term partnering, and there is an intimate link between sex and relationship formation. “We tend to have an idea in popular culture that there is a lot of casual sex going on,” Alex said, “but most sex actually occurs in a committed relationship…not necessarily a marriage, but a stable relationship.” Hence,  if young people are forming fewer relationships, this will ultimately impact sex and produce a far greater number of sexless people. 

Many young, single men (and women) appear to be single by choice. “If this is really the case,” said Alex, “then it’s also concerning that a lot of people have entirely dropped out of the dating market.” Rather than attempting to navigate the field of romance, or even pursue one night of pleasure, a significant number of young people have chosen to throw in the towel. 

“On the more speculative front,” added the researcher, “I think there are legitimate questions about the extent to which relations between the two sexes may impact this.” In this post-Weinstein world there is a lot of hostility toward men, with some mainstream outlets asking what’s wrong with hating men, and podcasts dedicated to the demonization of men. In modern day America, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask: is it okay to be a man? Sadly, a not insignificant number of Americans will probably answer ‘no.’

Another major reason for the sex drought includes a decline in testosterone levels, with roughly 1 in 5 men between the ages of 15-39 deficient in the primary male sex hormone. This is a problem that is going to get many times worse. In 2020, the global male hypogonadism market was valued at $3.1 billion; by the end of the decade, it is expected to be worth more than $5 billion. Studies show that depression and anxiety are the most common psychopathological symptoms associated with male hypogonadism. Studies also show a strong association between low testosterone levels and suicidal behavior. Moreover, low testosterone levels are directly correlated with a lower sperm count.

Thankfully, there are natural ways of boosting testosterone. Men who lift weights tend to have higher testosterone levels and better sperm quality. They also tend to have better mental health. When it comes to battling mental illness, regular exercise can be more effective than counseling or medication. An increase in the consumption of protein and healthy fats can also boost testosterone. Getting plenty of sunlight is also of vital importance (42 percent of Americans are deficient in Vitamin D). Getting at least 7 hours of quality sleep per night (35 percent of Americans are sleep deprived) can also boost testosterone production. Increasing both zinc (at least 12 percent of the country is deficient in zinc) and magnesium supplementation has been shown to raise testosterone levels in men. Half the U.S. population is deficient in magnesium; vitamin D cannot be metabolized without adequate magnesium levels. It is recommended that men have anywhere between 400–420 mg per day of magnesium per day.

Also, for any men reading this who fear that they have below normal levels of testosterone, don’t smoke weed. Today, more Americans smoke cannabis than tobacco, and more men smoke cannabis than women. Marijuana has been shown to decrease testosterone levels, and to create ancillary problems like weight gain and infertility.

As testosterone levels continue to plummet, obesity levels continue to skyrocket, and an increasing number of men slip into a pit of existential angst, it’s time to view the masculinity crisis as a national emergency. The men are not okay. In fact, many are drowning in a sea of despair. 

American culture needs to repair its broken relationship to masculinity. This should begin with a mass effort to wean boys and young men off their addiction to glowing rectangles. Endless screen time isn’t just developmentally bad for babies; it isolates young men in a prison of low self-esteem. Porn and spectator sports reify the idea that sex and athletics are best left to the professionals.

It is essential that young American men be made to feel useful, productive, and wanted. The future of the country depends on it.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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