The Man They Wanted Me to Be by Jared Yates Sexton

The Man They Wanted Me To Be: Toxic Masculinity and a Crisis of Our Own Making - Jared Yates Sexton

This is an essential book for the current times. Jared Yates Sexton addresses the issue of toxic masculinity with an insider's perspective. This is a memoir of growing up poor in the midwest, struggling with depression and alcohol abuse, a history of his parents and grandparents choices and their influence on his life and overall an intelligent analysis of the roots and reach of toxic masculinity on people's lives. The author considers this to be his answer to 'Hillbilly Elegy'.


I personally couldn't finish 'Elegy', but I'll acknowledge there is more of an academic tone to Sexton's writing that may put readers of Vance off. However, that tone is coupled with an unflinching look at his own childhood and the traditions of manhood that forced himself, the other men in his life - and the women around them - into falling in line with dangerous patterns of abuse, hostility, and disregard for the emotions of others. Sexton makes a point to say he does not want to remove the blame for domestic violence, and other crimes, from their perpetrators, but he does want the reader to see the link between behaviors encouraged by traditional "manhood" and violent acts.


Sexton shares details of his childhood and later personal experience to underline his thorough examination of the problem. Boys are conditioned from an early age to "be a real man". This book is essential to any one who wants to understand what is meant by toxic masculinity. Sexton covers the roots of "alpha" behavior from when it was perhaps necessary to survive, and takes it into the modern era when these behaviors can be problematic in personal and professional lives, face to face and online. The data he collects is compelling.


My experiences were very different than Sexton's, but I saw myself, and my father, in these pages and its frightening. The problem is vast, but Sexton points out what some others are doing to solve the problem and how he began to heal and move forward. Those of us who were conditioned to be a certain way, who fell in line for however long, it is never too late to let go and live the lives we should.