By Nathanael Stevens
The news industry gained a lot of viewers through the debate on “a war on women”—but the tagline was mere semantics, if not outright deception. The truth is, there was and is a war on gender. More specifically, there is a war on masculinity and femininity. Women have been encouraged to renounce what is unique to their sex and to embrace masculine traits, and men have been told to renounce masculine strength and to embrace their “feminine side.” And both genders have been listening and responding. Men, in particular, have been shaped by this in startling ways.
Consider some recent research. According to Reuters, the level of testosterone in the average male has declined 1 percent per year since the 1980s— and no one knows why.1 That means a 50-year-old man in 2023 has 40 percent less testosterone than a 50-year-old man had in 1983. An Atlantic article that covers much of the gender issue in education reports that there are now four men enrolled in college for every six women, and the gap is headed to two women for every male graduate.2 In 2020, the year the pandemic hit, colleges lost massive enrollment, but men accounted for 70 percent of the loss.3 The Pew Research Center just published this headline: “Women Now Outnumber Men in U.S. College-Educated Labor Force.”4 Men are changing relationally as well. Almost 30 percent of men under 30 haven’t had sex since they were 18.5 Bluntly put, women don’t want or admire the men produced by our culture. On their own, statistics like this are hard to put into a narrative. But together, they paint a compelling picture. It seems masculinity is on the decline.
Young men, I have some advice for you. But before I give it, if you haven’t heard it, hear it now. There has been a war to remove you from influencing your families, communities, and world. You have been given a message from at least the start of your education that you are not as valuable as girls. And, statistics say, you have responded by surrendering to the messaging. I am so sorry. I am sorry that the world is the way it is. That the beauty of the masculine soul has been decried and denounced. I am incredibly sorry for the churches that have promoted this message. I am sorry for the broken homes that reinforced it. I am sorry for the culture that has demanded it.
The masculine soul glories in the strength and resilience needed to provide for others even when life is difficult and the job challenging. The masculine soul rejoices in preserving the sweet tenderness of a peaceful, happy home, even if it means taking up the risky role of protector. The masculine soul’s greatest pleasure is found through the pleasure of a spouse, not at the expense of anyone (including the woman on the screen). God made a good thing when He made men. And hear this specifically, your sex drive is a good thing—God has given it to us— to both drive one to marriage and provide delight within it. As a believer in Jesus, your heart is good, and your masculinity is a cause for glory, joy, and delight. I am sorry that such a message has been all but completely lost for a generation.
In this milieu, young men have simply been checking out.
What does that look like? It looks like being over 20 and playing video games for an hour or more daily. It looks like regular viewing of sexually arousing pictures, videos, and movies. It looks like spending most of your recreational time in front of a screen. It looks like rejecting the idea of providing for others and simply finding work that “pays the bills” so you can get back to some form of disengagement, or not finding work at all. It looks like financial dependence on friends and family. It looks like disengagement from church—either not attending at all, or only attending instead of serving. It looks like addictions, from alcohol to drugs to TikTok.
In light of this, there are five things young men need to know.
- Young men who follow Jesus are in short supply, meaning demand is super high. Many have called our current culture “post-Christian.” And that’s a fair assessment for many parts of the country. But men who love Jesus will always be in high demand. Regardless of what you might read online, a man whose identity is secure (a son of the Most High God), and whose mission is clear (to live in a way that brings great glory to his Creator), will be sought after. Your church needs you to love Jesus; your community needs you to love Jesus; the economy needs you to love Jesus. And, yes, likely, a young woman needs you to love Jesus. To be a man who loves and follows Jesus today puts you in high demand for most women, especially Christian women. Culture has created a form for men, but the form is unfit—and nobody has a use for the men it produces. So love Jesus and let Him inform your masculinity.
- Attempt masculinity even if you don’t do it right. You are not perfect, and you will fail and offend, and that’s okay. Masculinity is imparted to men through a community of other men over time. Fathers, uncles, grandfathers, mentors, teachers, coaches—men who fill these roles have historically been the ones who guided boys through the initiation into manhood. All of these categories have been broken down. From single-parent homes to the dissolution of family connections to the infiltration of the anti-masculine agenda in the school systems, there has been a blitzkrieg against everything that makes a man. As you embrace masculinity, you will not do it perfectly. That’s okay. It is far better to try and fail than to continue the checked-out life. Move out of Mom’s house, pay your bills, engage in a ministry, exercise and take your health seriously, and start establishing a career path—start setting up a life that can care for others rather than one that requires being cared for by others. A great career doesn’t necessitate a degree. Trade schools often offer the best ROI. You will fail at times, but that’s okay. Keep trying, God fathers us through the successes and the failures. The path of maturity and purpose is worth it. It is also what draws and holds a woman’s affection.
- Find a community. Isolation is probably the most damning effect of culture’s definition of masculinity. You especially need men around you, and I don’t mean those guys in Australia that you do online gaming with. I mean, go to your pastor, and ask him to mentor you. And if he can’t, go to your deacons or your elders and ask them. Pick up those relationships you let slide—a college roommate who loved Jesus, or a high school buddy—say, “hey, let’s go to church tomorrow, and then get wings, coffee, or something more Deuteronomy 14:26-ish.” Ask your pastor if you can start a young men’s Bible study, camping club, or fishing trip— whatever. You need community, and you need masculine community. If you are not in a church, commit to one. Most churches lay out the red carpet for a young man who shows up and says he wants to love Jesus—we need you, and we know it.
- Respecting women is part of the masculine soul. A dangerous message pervades the left and right sides of media, social media, politics, and podcasts. “Because men and women are the same, men and women should compete, not correspond.” We see this when 13-year-old boys and girls are pitted against one another on wrestling mats—how do you teach a boy not to lay a hand on a girl after cheering him on when he throws one around on a mat (or what’s maybe more challenging, gets thrown around on the mat)? And we see it in some of the violent tendencies of the “incel” movement. On the right, the message is, “Compete and crush.” Social media pushes this narrative with videos like the girl on the football team who gets knocked unconscious on her first play. On the left, the message to girls is “Fight to assert your empowerment over patriarchy.” Social media is again filled with arguments about the pay gap between male and female athletes. God’s message for men is simple: we respect women. Don’t get caught up in the competition narrative. Respect your mom, your sisters, and any young women in your life. This also means you don’t sleep around. God calls it sin, and He calls them His daughters. Delete the hookup apps.
- Pick a mate whose love for Jesus breaks the mold culture gives women. Culture’s mold for women is tragic: beauty-conscious and empowered, but embittered and ill-equipped for a happy marriage, as the Bible describes it. As a result, marriage today is a hazardous business for men. Today, 70 percent of all divorces are initiated by women.6 Men rarely get primary custody of their children. With that comes child support payments, and in many cases, alimony. 80% of custodial parents are women.7 Marrying a woman shaped primarily by culture is an unwise choice that often carries devastating consequences. If we were to remove God from the mix, not getting married and not having kids would be the wiser option for men today. But God is in the mix, and there are plenty of great young women who are more defined by their love for Jesus than culture (see point 1). Marriage and family are not only God’s plan,8 but they are also one of the most significant sources of joy and fulfillment on this side of heaven. So, find a woman whose love for Jesus breaks the mold culture has set for her. That shows when she demonstrates submission to Jesus and the Bible. It shows up in her work in her church and her respect for her dad and other godly men.
Nathanael Stevens is the Lead Pastor of Nags Head (NC) Church, where he loves Jesus, his wife, five kids, and the church family God has gifted to him. He has worked in men’s ministry for over ten years and has a Doctor of Ministry in Biblical spirituality focusing on men’s ministry.
8 Editor’s note: Paul did say that it is good to remain unmarried (1 Cor 7:8). But then he added, “If they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Cor 7:9). Some can remain celibate. Most cannot.