We often hear that masculinity is under attack; that fatherhood is under assault. And there’s no doubt about it. These assertions are true. But those who bemoan the so-called “death of manhood” often struggle to pinpoint exactly what they mean by it and what proof they have that such a phenomenon is occurring.

Some say our culture’s assault on manliness is linked wholly to its feminization of men. This certainly may be true in part. But it falls short of the mark.

Should men wear resplendent, Harry Styles-esque dresses? No. Of course not. But there are plenty of men who would never dream of wearing a dress, would laugh in the face of a Billy Porter, and yet still have fallen victim to the war against manhood.

Dressed in rugged jeans, boots and a cowboy hat, a man can still fundamentally lack the one quality that would really “make him a man.”

So what is this one attribute that culture is dead set on enfeebling amongst men?

A sense of responsibility.

More than it wants men to dress in frilly gowns or abdicate their physical strength, our culture wants men to abdicate responsibility.

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Of course, both men and women have responsibilities–and both are very different–but none are so pressed to abnegate responsibility as are men. From gender-specific responsibilities (drawing upon our Christian roots we can find some of these responsibilities outlined in 1 Timothy 5:8, Ephesians 5:25, Ephesians 6:4 and 1 Peter 3:7) to more general responsibilities, men of the twenty-first century are impelled to–and stereotyped as people who–forsake them all.

In an intersectional world preoccupied with dismantling “toxic masculinity,” it only makes sense that we’d endeavor to immobilize strong men: and the best way to do it is by creating a culture in which it is possible to live irresponsibly.

Men are called to behave chivalrously, to respect and protect women and to provide for their families–none of which will happen, if they renounce the basic responsibility to do so. The truth is, however, that most people don’t want responsibility. It must be expected and demanded or we will not, of our own accord, aspire to it.

Unfortunately, our culture has done the exact opposite: far from expecting responsibility, it has destigmatized irresponsibility, making it easier than ever to live carelessly.

Wholesale access to pornography, for example, makes it easier than ever for men to “enjoy” temporary sexual pleasures without the responsibility of caring for a “real” woman or maintaining a healthy relationship with her (not to mention that porn addictions often are in and of themselves an escape from other responsibilities).

What’s more, the advent of contraceptives, the acceptance of abortion, and the adoption of government policies incentivizing single motherhood have all culminated over several decades in an increase in responsibility-less sex. Men feel more enabled to live licentiously, and should some child be conceived as a result of that lifestyle, it is easier than ever for them to forgo any unwanted responsibility to care for that child.

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Less serious, but still detrimental, is our culture’s consuming obsession with video games. According to one study, gamers played for an average of 16.5 hours per week in 2021. Of course, everyone has hobbies, and there is nothing wrong with that, but there is something about video games that is particularly prone to pull young men and fathers away from responsibilities–such as working a job or spending time with their families.

Even the entertainment industry has a part to play in this, as our culture has sustained a massive increase in men who “never grow up” and show more interest in comic books and Star Wars than in their wives or kids.

This is the real assault on manhood. The death of masculine traits certainly does play a part in this for some men. But ultimately it comes down to the death of responsibility. From the most masculine of men to the most effeminate, all are being tempted to resign themselves to irresponsibility.

So what can we do about it?

First, government ought once again to heroize honorable manliness and responsible fatherhood–rather than deride it. The state of Florida recently set a high standard in this regard when it passed legislation providing $70 million to support fatherhood and designated June as “Responsible Fatherhood Month.” Efforts like these can go a long way in reversing the years of stigma against men.

But government can not single-handedly end porn addictions or licentiousness or irresponsibility (although, as Florida is proving, it certainly can do something to discourage these evils). Ultimately, these changes rest upon the shoulders of the men who must personally decide what kind of lives they want to lead.

Just because our culture has normalized the spurning of male leadership, does not give men a pass to spurn their own personal responsibility to live a moral, virtuous life. At a time when our world wants men uselessly hiding away in a dark room, addicted to porn and video games, refusing to take on the responsibilities of a marriage or a family, we ourselves must choose to make men responsible again.

Jakob Fay is a former intern and current SIA Coordinator for the Convention of States Project, a project of Citizens for Self-Governance.