“Toxic masculinity is killing us.”

Renée Graham wrote a thoughtful and terrifying piece in yesterday’s Boston Globe entitled “Toxic masculinity is killing us.”

Literally and figuratively, toxic masculinity is killing us: Mass shootings. Domestic violence. Fatal fraternity hazing. Rape culture. Workplaces and schools turned into cesspools of sexual harassment and assault. This is not consigned to one race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic level. Feral masculinity affirms itself every day through violence and domination.

It is a detriment to social and political progress, our mental health, and physical safety. The deleterious result is a nation under siege by those compelled to affirm their power by any means necessary.

I had been thinking about this, especially in light of several recent stories about fraternity or football hazing resulting in severe injuries or death. All involve bizarre, sadistic rituals and near-fatal and fatal levels of alcohol. And we only know about them because someone died or was horribly injured.  Two things struck me as I read these articles:
  • The non-fatal version of this must go on thousands of times a year, in precisely the institutions we’re counting on to turn adolescents into adults; and
  • When they’re not busy play-acting at sodomy or abusing and photographing the almost-corpse of their classmate — or engaging in other, violent but non-fatal rituals — these young men likely present as upstanding citizens-to-be.   

They’re the ones we praise on the field on Sunday and offer summer internships to, not the ones we kill for wearing a hoodie or having a busted tail light or failing to leave a movie theater between showings.

At Penn State, a pledge drinks too much, falls down a flight of stairs, is dragged to a sofa, and left to die of his injuries.  And there was a camera:

There was the seemingly callous handling of Tim Piazza’s body, as when a brother lifted Tim’s arm and it thudded back onto his chest, or when another brother poured liquid on his face, or when a brother slapped his face three times, or when a brother tackled someone onto him, or when Tim kept rolling off the couch but his body showed no reflex reactions, or when another brother struck his discolored abdomen with an open hand. Then there was the response to his condition: Beta brothers strapped a heavy book bag on Tim’s unconscious body to keep him from rolling onto his back and aspirating on his own vomit, a phenomenon with which they were sufficiently familiar to have a name for it: “backpacking.” There were intermittent signs of animation: Tim twitching, Tim vomiting, Tim bare-chested and moving his legs, the backpack affixed to his body. There was the brothers’ disconcerting failure to seek help. When brother Kordel Davis arrived, 28 minutes after Tim’s fall, he looked at Tim’s head and began pointing at it agitatedly and arguing to his fellow Betas, according to interviews conducted by police, that they needed to call 911. A brother was then seen on the video shoving Davis across the room.

After Beta’s brothers and pledges had headed off, Tim Piazza was seen alone in the video, at times on all fours and clutching his abdomen, at times managing to stand and stagger, only to fall again, repeatedly, sometimes face-first onto the hard floor or into sharp objects (a table corner, a banister finial). At 6:49 A.M., a pledge named Qobi Quainoo sat on a sofa opposite Tim and watched him groan, fall off the sofa, and get to his knees and bend forward, rocking and clutching his head. Quainoo began to record a video of this on his cell phone, according to the presentment, and left the house at 7:12 A.M. (Quainoo did not respond to a request for comment.)

Around 10 A.M., two brothers found Tim’s shoes and started looking for him. They found him in the basement, breathing heavily, bare-chested, his hands clenched, his skin cold, blood on his face, his eyes half open. They took him upstairs. For the next 42 minutes, a shifting assortment of brothers stood around, shaking Tim, attempting to put a shirt on him, trying to prop him up on the couch.

What follow then details the attempts to clean up and cover up the crimes.

A fraternity at Baruch College takes its pledges to a remote cabin and puts them through a physical gauntlet called “The Glass Ceiling.”

Deng was the last of his pledge class to go through the Glass Ceiling. He made it through the first two stages, but in the middle of the third he got up unsteadily after one tackle. Then, according to testimony later given by Li, the pledge assistant Kenny Kwan, starting 10 to 15 feet away, ran at full speed into Deng and slammed him to the ground. Deng did not get up.

Li, 21 at the time, would later tell prosecutors that Deng was making ‘‘groaning sounds.’’ According to Li, Sheldon Wong, who was 21 and the pledge educator, picked Deng up and, with others’ help, carried him inside the rental house. Charles Lai, who was 23 and Deng’s Big, told detectives that Deng’s body felt ‘‘straight like a board.’’ Fraternity members stripped off his clothes, cold and wet with frost, and laid him down by the fireplace and covered him with a blanket. At 5:05 a.m., the police timeline indicates, one brother called his girlfriend, a nurse, to ask what she thought could be causing Deng to be so unresponsive. Eight minutes later, another brother Googled ‘‘conscious’’ and ‘‘unconscious.’’ At 5:55, a fraternity brother named Revel Deng texted a friend four times to ask about his grandfather’s fatal fall down the stairs. During this period, none of the three dozen brothers in the Poconos called 911. Nobody summoned an ambulance because, according to a statement given to detectives, someone had looked up how much it would cost and determined that the price would be too high.

Around 6 a.m., Wong, Lai and a third brother drove Michael Deng to the emergency room

Gruver died at a hospital on Sept. 14 after Phi Delta Theta members found him lying on a couch at the fraternity house. A witness told police that Gruver was “highly intoxicated” when fraternity members laid him on the couch and left the house sometime early that morning.

Around 11 a.m., members found Gruver still on the couch with a weak pulse and couldn’t tell if he was breathing, police said. Two people drove him to a hospital, where he died that day.

And two football hazings involving sodomy, one in high school,

Jordan Preavy had it all as a junior in high school after making the football team. But that dream quickly became a nightmare for the 16-year-old when he was sodomized during a hazing ritual.

Witnesses told police Preavy’s head “snapped back and he looked pained,” yelling “No!” and “Get off,” as he was assaulted through his clothes with a broomstick by at least two older teammates in 2011.

Nearly a year later, just weeks after his 17th birthday, Preavy killed himself.

was kidnapped last year from his dorm, had his arms and legs bound with duct tape, and was beaten, peppered with anti-Muslim slurs, stripped to his underwear, nearly penetrated by a foreign object, then left half-naked in a baseball field as temperatures dipped near freezing.
These are the perps:
Photo array of head shots of five white men with short hair in football jerseys. Caption reads "Five football stars at Illinois's Christian-focused Wheaton College are accused of kidnapping, beating, and attempting to sodomize a freshman."
Having recalled reading these various articles, I went to find them by googling “fraternity hazing deaths.” There’s a Wikipedia page that lists them — since the 1800s.
What does it mean for these boys’ treatment of women and gay men that sodomy is used as a symbol of dominance, ingrained into them to belong to a new family just after they’ve left their birth families.
I have no answers.  Perhaps if high schools and colleges were led by grown-ups who set positive examples and banned all hazing — and enforced the ban full time, not just ad hoc after death or injury?  But could colleges do this without endangering their endowment?  And thus it perpetuates itself.

2 thoughts on ““Toxic masculinity is killing us.”

  1. Ruth Blau

    We need to take it a step further than banning hazing. We need to ban fraternities and sororities from college and university campuses. They are toxic organizations.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

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