How To Do Life

Fresh ideas about career and personal issues

Men, Power, Money, and Sex

An interview with men's advocate, Warren Farrell.

Warren Farrell is a leading expert on men’s issues. He is the author of seven books and chair of the Commission to Create a White House Council on Boys and Men. He served on the board of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in New York City and is an advocate for both sexes having the full range of options, professionally and personally.  

I interviewed him about gender roles, power, why men earn more, and campus rape.

Marty Nemko: You're most well-known for your book The Myth of Male Power, just out in a new e-book edition. Many people think men have the power: Look at the Senate and CEO rosters. How would you respond? 

Warren Farrell: A small percentage of men have major institutional power but across the full population, real power is about having choices. The women’s movement has made it socially acceptable for a mom to work full-time, stay home with the child full-time, or work part-time. That’s as it should be. Alas, it’s not as acceptable for a man to work part-time, let alone be a full-time parent. Mr. Mom is still a term of derision.

Marty Nemko: But men earn more. Isn’t that power?

Warren Farrell: Many men still buy into a false definition of power: feeling obligated to earn money that someone else spends while we die sooner—5.2 years sooner. That’s not power. That’s being a prisoner of the need for love and approval.

Marty Nemko: In your book, Why Men Earn More, you report that the statistic that women earn 77 cents for each dollar a man earns for the same work is very misleading. Can you give an example as to why?  

Warren Farrell: Women who have never been married and never had children earn 17% more than never-married men that have never had children, even when education and years worked are equal. Men don’t earn more than women. Dads earn more than moms. Why? When a child is born, a mom is more likely to divide her labor between work and home, earning less at work. A dad is more likely to increase his hours at work—or work two jobs—often taking jobs he likes less that pay more.  

Marty Nemko: In Why Men Earn More, you write, “The road to high pay is a toll road.” Are you suggesting that high pay and power can be inversely correlated? 

Warren Farrell: Yes. For many dads, the road to high pay is not about power; it’s about his hope to make his children’s life better than his. It’s about giving his wife a better life. And to get that higher pay, he often has to forgo work he'd rather do. For example, he might prefer to be a teacher or a creative but to better support his family, he accepts a long-hours, high-stress, technical, travel-intensive, often soulless management position.

Marty Nemko: In your recent Reddit Highlighted Conversation, you cite statistics so startling that some would question their veracity. Would you provide the source for:

  • This is the first time in U.S. history that our sons will have less education than their dads.
  • Boys' suicide rate goes from equal to girls at age 9 to five times(!) girls' in their twenties.
  • More U.S. male military were killed by suicide in one year than were killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in all years combined.

Warren Farrell: Yes. Boys having less education than their dads is from the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), “Education at a Glance,” 2010, Table A1.3a

The boy-girl suicide rate is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 58,1, 2009, and Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), 2010.

The U.S. military suicide rate data is from the DOD, uncovered by CBS, in Armen Keteyian, “Suicide Epidemic Among Veterans.” CBS News, November 13, 2007. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/11/13/cbsnews_investigates/main3496471.shtml.

Marty Nemko: The subtitle of your book The Myth of Male Power is: Why Men are the Disposable Sex. How are men the disposable sex?

Warren Farrell: Virtually all societies that survived did so based on their ability to train their sons to be disposable—disposable in war, disposable at work.

Marty Nemko: That’s a strong statement. What’s your evidence?

Warren Farrell: The evidence is ubiquitous. 92 percent of workplace deaths occur to men, jobs few women would take: oil rig workers, long-haul truckers, roofers, coal miners. Yet there isn't the political will to create regulations that would afford them more protection for these workers. Meanwhile, when women have a less life-threatening deficit, for example, underrepresentation of women in engineering, there's massive expenditure to redress. Although male-only draft registration is a violation of both the 14th Amendment’s equal-protection clause and the 5th Amendment’s due process clause, it is so unconsciously accepted it isn’t even questioned. Only men can serve in direct combat so 98 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan deaths were men.

Marty Nemko: Is the fact that men die 5.2 years younger than women another example of male disposability? 

Warren Farrell: It is the combination of facts like men dying 5.2 years younger than women—or men dying sooner from all ten of the ten leading causes of death, plus the fact that we nevertheless have seven federal offices of women’s health and none of men’s health that together reflect the psychology of indifference toward male disposability. Similarly, men over the age of 85 commit suicide 1350 percent as frequently as women over 85. Virtually no one knows this. If women over 85 committed suicide 1350 percent as often than men, it would be used as the quintessential example of our undervaluing of women. We seem to care more about saving whales than saving males.

Marty Nemko: You said men are indirectly disposable as dads. How do you mean? 

Warren Farrell: In a divorce, if the mother doesn’t want the father to be equally involved, the apriori assumption is that she's right. Men have to fight in court for that right, and that's expensive.Unless he’s rich, he’s disposable.  

Marty Nemko: What are your thoughts about the current focus on campus rape?

Warren Farrell: The issue first should be addressed before kids get to college. For example, we may need to encourage our daughters to take the initiative when they do want physical intimacy, not just to say when they don’t. Our society strives for equality but few experts are asking women to share the responsibility for taking the initiative in sex, thereby risking rejection. During adolescence, women are the more mature sex. It’s unfair to expect guys to assume 90 percent of the burden of sexual rejection.

Marty Nemko: What should happen at college? 

Warren Farrell: First, make the law the last resort. The law is binary: guilty/not guilty. Sex is nuanced and more nonverbal than verbal. Those nuances have evolved over millennia. A slight change in eye contact means everything in a male-female encounter but would be laughed at in court. And if a grievance is filed, we should not presume guilt. Alas, some accusations are false.

Marty Nemko: What about workshops at college?

Warren Farrell: Yes but both sexes should be walking a mile in each other’s moccasins.

Marty Nemko: You’ve done such trainings, right? 

Warren Farrell: Yes. I used to tell college audiences, “Every woman is in a beauty contest every day of her life.” I then invited all the guys on stage to experience that. I had those guys wear bathing suits and had the women be the judges. The guys were stunned at being unseen for their integrity, intelligence, or values. They felt objectified.

Marty Nemko: What did you do to help the young women walk a mile in the guys’ moccasins? 

Warren Farrell: I had the women “ask-out” the guys they were most attracted to on a 20-minute “date.” Some did what they criticize men for, for example, lying to get an attractive guy to go out with them. Others went after a less attractive guy to reduce the chance of getting rejected. The guys totally identified with that. 

Marty Nemko: What was the outcome of those workshops? 

Warren Farrell: Greater compassion for the other sex’s vulnerability, and I formed hundreds of men and women’s groups so they would continue to deepen their compassion after I left campus.  

Marty Nemko: Was there any concrete evidence it reduced campus rape? 

Warren Farrell: I asked campus sponsors to let me know if any of the workshop participants later were involved in a date rape accusation. Although I had worked with 20,000 students in hundreds of colleges, not one incident was reported.

Marty Nemko: Do you still do those workshops?

Warren Farrell: As political correctness set into the colleges’ psyches, college programs shifted to emphasizing only men understanding women. It would be wiser for programs to help both sexes better understand each other. We don’t need a women’s movement blaming men, nor a men’s movement blaming women. We need a gender liberation movement. We need both sexes walking a mile in each other’s moccasins. 

Marty Nemko's bio is in Wikipedia.

Marty Nemko is a career and personal coach based in Oakland, Ca. and the author of 7 books. 
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