The Decline of Masculinity in
The Machine Stops

Bill Weintraub

Bill Weintraub

The Decline of Masculinity in The Machine Stops


"The Machine Stops" is a short futurist "science fiction" story written by the great British novelist and essayist E. M. Forster early in the last century.

It's surprisingly prescient.

In Mr. Forster's story, all human beings live underground in small hexagonal rooms, where they are connected to each other by what we would call computers and the internet.

They rarely leave their rooms -- there's no longer a reason to, points out Forster, since the world is exactly the same no matter where you go.

All their material wants -- food, clothing, medicine -- are provided by "the Machine," which is basically a huge computer, on which they've become utterly dependent; and they pass their time in intellectual pursuits carried out not in person but over the net.

There are two characters in the story:

Vashti, a music critic, and mother; and

Kuno, her dissident son.

Kuno is not content to have his life run by "the Machine," and to know the world only through his computer monitor.

Instead, he wants to experience life for himself, and most of all he wants to visit the surface of the earth, something which is allowed only with a permit.

Kuno disdains the permit, and begins to dig his way towards the surface.


For Kuno was possessed of a certain physical strength.

By these days it was a demerit to be muscular. Each infant was examined at birth, and all who promised undue strength were destroyed. Humanitarians may protest, but it would have been no true kindness to let an athlete live; he would never have been happy in that state of life to which the Machine had called him; he would have yearned for trees to climb, rivers to bathe in, meadows and hills against which he might measure his body. Man must be adapted to his surroundings, must he not? In the dawn of the world our weakly must be exposed on Mt. Taygetus, in its twilight our strong will suffer euthanasia, that the Machine may progress, that the Machine may progress, that the Machine may eternally progress.

What Forster could see, way back in 1904 or 1905, was that physical strength and muscularity would, sometime in the not-too-distant future, become a defect; and that those who were possessed of too much athleticism would be destroyed.

And he saw very clearly the link between Nature and Natural Masculinity.

He said that what the athlete would miss most would be "trees to climb, rivers to bathe in, meadows and hills against which he might measure his body."

That's very close to the point that both Rm and Robert Loring were making in Rm's post male identity, where Rm says "Part of being a male is being close to nature and so being a natural male."

To which Robert responds:

What rm posted in these sentences reflects the TRUTH of the AGES! Part of being male IS being CLOSE to NATURE! Humans were intended to be a part of nature. Yet, we try our best to separate ourselves from nature and turn to view her as the enemy, something to be conquered and pillaged, when in FACT nature is our MOTHER. We build our UGLY and HIDEIOUS cities and towns of concrete, particle board, steel, and asphalt and create for ourselves a FALSE environment and FALSE existence. Living in our little "secure" and "safe" FAKE environs we try to be happy but TRUE Happiness escapes most of us because we always feel something is missing. And something IS MISSING and what is missing is our NATURAL connection with NATURE! How can one be happy thinking that nature and the natural is the enemy? Answer: YOU CAN'T and you WON'T!! If you do not commune and try to be a part of nature, YOUR natural state, then happiness will ALWAYS escape you.

Modern society is sick today. Very sick! And, part of the reason is due to the fact that we have tried our best to separate ourselves from nature and from the natural. Instead we have erected falsehoods and labeled them "normal" and "natural" even though there is NOTHING normal or natural about our fallacies! We see nature as the enemy and we see the NATURAL LOVE and COMPASSION that NATURALLY exists between men as unnatural even though the FACT is it is EXTREMELY NATURE and NORMAL. How much longer will WE allow this to go on? Humans are quick to blame God and they cry out for some Savior to come take them out of their misery never realizing that it is we OURSELVES who have created this false UNnatural existence and God has left us to pull ourselves out of it ALONE! God is NOT in the Search and Rescue business!!

We want to know God yet we fear actually connecting with the Creator through Nature. In Nature one finds the Creator Spirit EVERYWHERE and in EVERY THING yet we fear knowing that truly! We want but, then again, we don't REALLY want! Nature is NOT the enemy of man! Nature is a part of natural manhood and nature IS our DIVINE MOTHER with whom ALL MEN must reconnect! In that reconnection lies part of our SALVATION. Salvation from our own selves!

Robert then tells us of a friend who starting taking his sons, who didn't seem "manly enough" to him, on camping trips.

And how quickly the boys changed:

One of the things he told me was how "surprised" he was while camping with his two boys because they seemed "like two Spartan soldiers out there in the wilds." And, I'll never forget his amazement at how the two boys seemed to "automatically" become more masculine.

Well of course they became "automatically" more masculine and manly because this father put his two sons BACK in touch with nature and the natural. He gave BACK something to his two boys that our upside down society had tried to take away from them and that is their own individual NATURAL MASCULINITY. He took his two city-slicker boys poisoned by the myths and lies of modern society and put them back into nature where they began to simply do and be what comes to all males NATURALLY. Like two Spartan Soldiers these two boys reclaimed their maleness and by the end of the camping trip the two boys were on the road to being what they were meant to be, Warriors!

The camping trips continued and this father began to notice something. He noticed that while out camping the two boys acted differently from when they were at home in the city. He could see conflict within them as they struggled in the city trying to maintain their masks of what society said boys should be, gender neutral, passive, feminized, etc. He noticed in the city the two boys seemed to be almost "enslaved" by something but when out camping the two boys were "definitely free and happy!". Not only did being out in nature promote the boys natural masculinity but it also promoted their happiness and joy. Something in nature spoke to their minds and souls. Something in nature liberated them from the chains that modern society had tried so hard to enslave them in. Nature called them back to their true selves. Nature stripped them of all their societal masks and fakery! Nature turned these two boys into masculine males!

She, Nature, made these boys MEN and WARRIORS!!

She gave BACK to them their own NATURAL MALE IDENTITY that modern society had tried so hard to steal away from them!

This is an anecdote which Forster himself would have loved and understood instantly.

It could easily have been incorporated into one of his novels.

For example, in A Room with a View, which many people know as the Merchant-Ivory film, a group of well-bred young men including a pastor, living in late Victorian England, "go for a bathe" -- that is, they go to their local swimming hole.

Once there, since they don't have swimming suits, and since they're in an all-male space out in nature, they take off their clothes and start swimming.

Even the pastor, reluctantly, takes off his clothes too.

Swimming nude like that, they swiftly refind their natural masculinity, splashing and rough-housing with each other, and letting out loud war whoops as they run naked through the woods.

It's a wonderful scene, and clearly something that Forster, who was by the standards of his day, "homosexual," understood clearly and intuitively.

Forster, like Rm and Robert, understood that in our time, the forces of "civilization," which we would say were actually the forces of heterosexualization and effeminism, were completely opposed to natural masculinity, and that the only salvation for the male was something approaching The Way of the Warrior.

For example, in his only explicitly homosexual novel, Maurice, Forster's same-sex lovers run away from civilization and live as wood-cutters in the forests of nothern England.

Forster later said that he wrote it that way because there was no way a natural male love could survive in the England of his day.

The only hope for these men, he believed, was to escape the Machine, and return to Nature.

Bill Weintraub

© All material Copyright 2006 by Bill Weintraub. All rights reserved.

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