What Happens to the Soul of a Society That Sends Men into Combat with Women?

Ed. note: This article was originally written in 2013 as the U.S. military was debating the efficacy of allowing women to serve in combat zones. This week a Texas judge ruled that it's unconstitutional for the Selective Service requirement to only apply to men, which could pave the way for women being forced to sign up for the draft. As the nation considers the possibility of women being drafted, it's worth revisiting the problems associated with women in combat roles. 

Manhood is not simply a matter of being male and reaching a certain age. These are acts of nature; manhood is a sustained act of character. It is no easier to become a man than it is to become virtuous. In fact, the two are the same. The root of our old-fashioned word "virtue" is the Latin word virtus, a derivative of vir, or man. To be virtuous is to be "manly." As Aristotle understood it, virtue is a "golden mean" between the extremes of excess and deficiency. Too often among today's young males, the extremes seem to predominate. One extreme suffers from an excess of manliness, or from misdirected and unrefined manly energies. The other suffers from a lack of manliness, a total want of manly spirit. Call them barbarians and wimps. So prevalent are these two errant types that the prescription for what ails our young males might be reduced to two simple injunctions: Don't be a barbarian. Don't be a wimp. What is left, ceteris paribus, will be a man.

-- Terrence O. Moore, Wimps and Barbarians: The Sons of Murphy Brown

As we seem to be rushing headlong into the decision to allow women to serve in combat, a decision with wide-ranging implications, let’s consider a few inconvenient truths.

Men commit violent crimes more than three times as often as women. Ninety-nine percent of rapists are men. Serial killers are almost always men. Mass shooters are almost always men. From early infancy, boys and girls show sex-linked toy preferences.

This is not to suggest that all men are violent psychopaths, but anyone who has ever raised male children knows that they are born with an innate tendency to throw, hit, destroy, and create general mayhem.

When our boys were little we belonged to a playgroup that included girls. Quite honestly, I often found myself shocked at the behavior of my little boys compared to their angelic female playmates. My male tots, who were in no way being raised in a violent home and who watched nothing more violent on TV than Lamb Chop’s Play-Along, had an inborn propensity for violent behavior. If they could lift it they wanted to throw it. If they felt anger their natural reaction was to hit. They saw an open tub of Duplo blocks as an invitation to hoist the tub in the air and scatter the blocks across the room. Usually, their female toddler friends tried to reason with them — babbling incoherently, no doubt scolding them for their barbaric behavior. When that didn’t work, they just stared at them as if they were space aliens (the toddler version of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus).

Psychologist James Dobson wrote about this natural propensity in Bringing up Boys:

[O]ne of the scariest aspects of raising boys is their tendency to risk life and limb for no good reason. It begins very early. If a toddler can climb on it, he will jump off it. He careens out of control toward tables, tubs, pools, steps, trees, and streets. He will eat anything but food and loves to play in the toilet. He makes “guns” out of cucumbers or toothbrushes and likes digging around in drawers, pill bottles, and Mom’s purse. And just hope he doesn’t get his grubby little hands on a tube of lipstick. A boy harasses grumpy dogs and picks up kitties by their ears. His mom has to watch him every minute to keep him from killing himself. He loves to throw rocks, play with fire, and shatter glass. He also gets great pleasure out of irritating his brothers and sisters, his mother, his teachers, and other children. As he gets older, he is drawn to everything dangerous—skateboards, rock climbing, hang gliding, motorcycles, and mountain bikes. At about sixteen, he and his buddies begin driving around town like kamikaze pilots on sake. It’s a wonder any of them survive. Not every boy is like this, of course, but the majority of them are.

As our boys grew, we worked to strike the delicate balance between tempering their natural instincts to plunder and destroy with the constraints of living in civilized society (and also of living in the house with a mother who appreciates the toilet seat in the down position). One of the main benefits of having both a mother and a father in the home is that both perspectives exist in a delicate balance within the marriage to moderate the natural extremes of the sexes. I instinctively wanted to protect the boys and, left to my own devices, would have been overprotective. My husband naturally gravitated toward allowing them to explore, fall down, take their knocks and learn life’s lessons the hard way. The goal was always to turn out men. Not some feminized, politically correct, egalitarian version of manhood, but in keeping with their genetically driven impulses and God-given natures, we determined to encourage them to defy current societal pressures and become real, masculine men.