If you ask 100 people this question, you’ll probably get 100 different answers. People will give you physical explanations by highlighting things like muscle mass, facial hair, and voice pitch. Others will focus on character and point to things like courage, self-reliance and respect. These approaches are individual, but there is a social approach to the question that I think is far more insightful.
To frame the question in familiar terms–What separates a boy from a man? A boy, I would argue, is about himself. His feelings, hopes, and dreams dominate his attention. If you don’t believe me, you probably don’t have any 6-year-olds, 9-year-olds, or 12-year-olds in your life. A man, on the other hand, is about the team. He defines his self-interest in relation to that of the group’s. That team can be the family (wife & kids or relatives), but it doesn’t have to be. The team can be a cause or community of people that transcends blood lines. And there can be more than one team.
Being a team player requires an understanding of the law of give-and-take. I addressed this topic last week in Pornography: An Exercise in Selfishness. The context in which you give other people what they need (time, resources, love, etc.) is the same context in which you take what you need. That is the way the world works.
I’m not saying that every guy who watches porn is a boy. Or that guys who don’t are men. What I am saying is that porn develops a selfishness characteristic of boys. And we all stand to gain from being less selfish.