Young men who are preoccupied with unmet needs can behave in ways that are antisocial. Both narcissists and sociopaths are manipulative, even exploitative, and can be unmoved by anything except how to advance their own interests. Both personality types lack interest in others except as a means to their ends. Both can be charming and very convincing, especially when fully focused on an important goal. And both are more likely to be male. In his book Bad Boys, Bad Men, psychiatrist Donald Black offers, “The most significant epidemiologic feature of ASP (anti-social personality disorder) is that it is almost exclusively a disorder of men.”
The way male development can go off-track, producing men who are unrestrained by norms of kindness or civility, wreaks havoc all around us. But it is a mistake merely to blame the problem on the individual man. Comey risks being sanctimonious, an attitude that is both a fearful exaggeration and misleading, in terms of policy. Moral superiority slows down the reinvention of boyhood that is needed to ensure that boys have sufficient opportunities to attach, grow, and develop virtue.
Separating men into scouts and scoundrels is easier than facing how difficult it is to provide boys with meaningful connections — the truth is that the potential for both attitudes resides in most all men’s hearts, given the imperfect state of our nurture.
And the same smug distance by which we separate ourselves from men who behave badly allows us to pretend that we have no responsibility for the way boys become bad.
We can do boyhood better.