To paraphrase the classic pop song: men — what are they good for? Currently a consensus appears to be forming around the song’s riposte — absolutely nothing! In which case it may be necessary to issue the time-honoured alert to ground control: Houston, humanity has a problem.

Our age it seems, at least in western societies, has little use for men; it is the era in which anything men can do women can and should do. Old ideas of manual labour conjuring visions of heads of households who are strong horny-handed sons of toil venturing forth as breadwinners is passé. Women have been liberated from the drudgery of housework and released into the wild open spaces of employment. They have been uncoupled from reliance on men for financial support while contraception has given them control of their reproductive options making them even more independent. Indeed, advances in the technology of reproduction have created so many options – donor sperm, in vitro fertilisation, surrogate pregnancy, with anonymity at each stage along the way, that a newborn can be delivered to a mother without any of the messy transitional stages requiring the forming of human relationships. When mother and child become the basic unit of society supported by a system of entitlements to state benefits – who needs fathers? The consequence of these immense social changes is a crisis of masculinity, a problem of men.

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