Peter F. Murphy's purpose in this book is not to shock but rather to educate, provoke discussion, and engender change. Looking at the sexual metaphors that are so pervasive in American culture—jock, tool, shooting blanks, gang bang, and others even more explicit—he argues that men are trapped and damaged by language that constantly intertwines sexuality and friendship with images of war, machinery, sports, and work.
These metaphors men live by, Murphy contends, reinforce the view that relationships are tactical encounters that must be won, because the alternative is the loss of manhood. The macho language with which men cover their fear of weakness is a way of bonding with other men. The implicit or explicit attacks on women and gay men that underlie this language translate, in their most extreme forms, into actual violence. Murphy also believes, however, that awareness of these metaphorical power plays is the basis for behavioral change: "How we talk about ourselves as men can alter the way we live as men."