Locker Room Humor and Male Friendship

By Bob Hiller

DISCLAIMER: This is not a blog about who you should or should not vote for. It does not seek to endorse either candidate. This is a blog about sin and manhood. It does happen that the foil for my blog today is running for the president of the United States. His comments about women and how they reflect current cultural stereotypes are the focus of this blog. Please do not use the comment section as a place for political fighting. Save that for Graham’s blog.

By now we have all heard Donald Trump’s abhorrent boasting of how his money allows him to dehumanize women and treat them as objects of his sexual pleasure. (So, now we have one candidate who doesn’t view unborn babies as human and another who doesn’t treat women as human. So, we’ve got that going for us…) In defending his perversion this week, Trump initially defined his claims as “locker room humor.” Right. Because, as we all should know by now, the locker room is the place where guys giggle, snap towels, and boast about how their money excuses sexual assault.

This whole thing is utterly shameful. To be honest, I am personally not all that shocked or outraged by Trump’s comments. In fact, I would be more shocked to hear him say something respectful about women behind closed doors. What has shocked me is the response I’ve seen from so many of his supporters. Some Christians are responding by saying, “Well, look, we’re all sinners.” Surprisingly, similar gospel-logic isn’t applied to Hillary for her scandals. My, how gracious we can be when the sinner is in our political party. But, I digress…

Another response that has troubled me is the response that suggests the reaction against Trump’s comments are a result of some feminist attack on all things male. That is, by calling Trump’s perverse and disgusting comments perverse and disgusting, we are emasculating Trump and all men with him. It is suggested that the pushback Trump is receiving is just further proof that men are no longer allowed to be men.


Now, as it turns out, I do believe that men in our culture are facing a problem where they are no longer allowed a safe place to banter, laugh, fight, and/or relax. (See Fight Club for more). However, men who defend Trump’s comments by dismissing them as “locker room humor,” saying this is just how men talk, are simply furthering a stereotype that men are nothing but misogynistic pigs. They are contributing to a distorted definition of what it means to be a man. To be sure, some guys (let’s be careful with using the term “men” towards such people) are misogynistic jerks. But, that has nothing to do with manhood. Such condescending stereotypes only help to further the spread of the very feminism many of these people are seeking to prevent.

I wonder how we can recover a proper view of manhood without falling into such disturbing stereotypes? Any number of answers can be offered. One of the keys, I think, is to recover male friendships. I am a firm believer that our society has lost something when men and women don’t have time apart from each other in order to sit and share the familiar company of their own sex. (Scott and Paul have both written well on the virtues of non-homosexual male friendships.) In one of his most important books, The Four Loves, CS Lewis says this,

In early communities the co-operation of the males as hunters or fighters was no less necessary than the begetting and rearing of children. A tribe where there was no taste for one would die no less surely than a tribe where there was no taste for the other. Long before history began we men have got together apart from the women and done things. We had to. And to like what must be done is a characteristic that has survival value. We not only had to do the things, we had to talk about them. We had to plan the hunt and the battle. When they were over we had to hold a post mortem and draw conclusions for future use. We liked this even better. We ridiculed or punished the cowards and bunglers, we praised the star-performers. We reveled in technicalities…In fact, we talked shop. We enjoyed one another’s society greatly: we Braves, we hunters, all bound together by shared skill shared dangers and hardships, esoteric jokes—away from women and children. (pg. 63-64)

One of the reasons these male friendships (and I can only speak as a man here, a woman would tell you better than I about female relationships) are so important is because, as sinners (Lewis’ “cowards and bunglers”), men need their brothers and friends to punch them in the gut when they get out of line. Men need to be humbled. Proverbs 27:6 says, ”Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” Male friendship carries with it the distinct honor of faithful wounding. So that, when one man begins to get out of line, his friends can surround him and faithfully wound him back in his place. Incredibly, such wounds from friends produce security and confidence as they lead to forgiveness and healing. Without such friendships, sinful man will always be seeking to prove himself and gain approval by boasting in his accomplishments, even when they are his greatest sins. Without such friendships, without faithful wounds, men become simultaneously more insecure and pompous. They become proud cowards and bunglers.

A real man is not one who refuses to listen to the advice of others and walks around boasting of his machismo. Real men are those who have been faithfully wounded and faithfully healed. Real men need male friendships, not so that they have a locker room to insecurely boast of their sexual perversions and tell dirty jokes, but so that they can be faithfully wounded and led to repentance. They need brothers to whom they can confess their sins and receive a Word of forgiveness. Men need friends who are brave enough to rebuke them and brave enough to forgive them. Such faithful wounds and faithful forgiveness make men brave enough to love and sacrifice for those God has called them to serve.