Over the last two semesters, I’ve engaged a variety of groups on campus about the male com­munity and the def­i­n­ition of man­liness here at Hillsdale. My main question is: Why does our school exhibit a host of counter-cul­tural char­ac­ter­istics, while our general male pop­u­lation mirrors the effete masses of modern American uni­ver­sities?

Yes, the men here are good and moral men, but as a common body our resounding Instagram caption would state: “Look at the sweet men of Hillsdale College!” We do not emulate the tra­di­tional mas­culinity which many of our Great Books portray, nor the con­fident qual­ities women seek in their future spouses.

If I had to explicate this reality in an English-department-approved thesis, it would read as follows: Hillsdale male com­munity, stifled by a porno­graphic culture and a pan­sified society, reflects the decline of tra­di­tional man­liness across American college cam­puses.

Every Hillsdale student, regardless of gender, grows up in this porno­graphic age, and our Hillsdale bubble cannot filter out a lifetime of erotic indoc­tri­nation. Indi­vidual men are par­tic­u­larly at fault as our choice in movies, tele­vision shows, and iPhone Private Windows cheapens our sexual expec­ta­tions.

A man has no need to risk rejection when every­thing arousing is imme­di­ately acces­sible and damn­ingly exciting. Even those who pur­pose­fully con­tinue to risk, find their per­cep­tions of sex twisted with senseless per­ver­sions as pornog­raphy worms its way through the grey matter of their brain.

On this fault line, our men gen­erally split into two groups: Those inhab­iting the fringes of mas­culinity, and those par­tic­i­pating in our craven hook-up scene. As this gap widens, the male com­munity will lose the proper com­bi­nation of restraint and risk-taking which is vital to the devel­opment of mod­er­ation, courage, and ulti­mately man­liness.

While the over­whelming majority of our men know the purpose and insti­tution for sex, our porno­graphic culture, inherited and/or per­sonally main­tained, per­verts our natural sex drive and hinders engagement in worth­while dating rela­tion­ships. Hillsdale’s men are among the most vir­tuous col­le­gians in the country, but we are sus­cep­tible nonetheless; equally fallen, and equally tempted. Pornog­raphy con­tributes to our male community’s divide, but our own accep­tance of the broader, pan­sified society threatens to lock the feckless and the fool­hardy in their place.

Society dis­courages men from over­coming chal­lenges by propping up hollow idols of mas­culinity in enter­tainment. How many of our fathers and grand­fa­thers share stories of how they phys­i­cally fought and overcame bullies, or after a summer of hard work, repaired some car or motor­cycle? Whether it’s tele­vision shows or main­stream music, modern enter­tainment floods our minds with false mas­culinity through effem­inate or enslaved-to-lust char­acters who con­se­quently steer hoards of young men toward a life of indolent plea­sures.

Further, American schools con­tribute to this wimpish society by dis­ci­plining young boys against their nature. The paragon student in a kinder­garten classroom is little girl who sits quietly and waits for the teacher’s instruc­tions. Young boys squirm, they fight, they pick their noses — some­times even each others’. This dis­ci­pline sol­diers on well into high school until men even­tually effem­inate them­selves by retreating from the pain of cor­rection and running toward the ease of indoc­tri­nation.

How many Hillsdale men have been in a fight? How many of us have built some­thing mar­velous with our hands? While man­liness is more than fighting and fixing cars, the prin­ciple remains that over­coming obstacles, espe­cially phys­i­cally demanding ones, forges the foun­da­tional ele­ments of man­liness. A lifelong com­pliance with this per­fidious society pro­duces a pan­sified, unmanly, yet sweet, male college student.

The restoration of tra­di­tional man­liness begins with inten­tionally prac­ticing mod­er­ation and courage in our daily lives. Our porno­graphic hook-up culture will end when each of us learns to restrain our own bodies. The boys on the fringe of mas­culinity will grow up as they develop con­fi­dence by over­coming worth­while chal­lenges. The oppor­tu­nities for courage at Hillsdale are not found in Odyssean deeds of bravery. Instead, courage here is small. It’s in defending friends, holding your ground in argu­ments, and not apol­o­gizing for every little thing you do. Courage and mod­er­ation are the pillars of con­fi­dence and the foun­dation of a culture of man­liness.