Be Manly but Not Too Manly? 311 Sexist Pieces of Advice for Men
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And, of course, expressions of sex and sexuality have to be carefully monitored. Men definitely can't look too sexless. Roughly half the book consists of advice on not seeming sexless. But at the same time, they can't express their sexuality too overtly. No body piercings; no leather pants; no use of slang terms for masturbation. (Dead giveaway as to the authors' attitude towards sex: “Not that the word masturbation is so delightful...”) And no “prepping for sex.” You know what? I don't like mirrored ceilings or satin sheets, either. I sure as hell do like men -- and women -- with dildos, buttplugs, lube, whips, ropes, nipple clamps, bondage cuffs, massage oil, and so on. For me, or for them. Or for both of us. I like men -- and women -- who care enough about sex to make it a priority in their life. I like men -- and women -- who honor sex enough to consciously prepare for it, instead of pretending that it sprang on them by accident.
But here was the kicker for me. Here was the “Don't” that kicked this book up from Mildly Annoying But Sort Of Funny to Prime Example Of Everything That's Wrong With Gender In Our Society.
If you want to be a dateable man -- if you want to be manly enough to deserve a woman (although not too manly!) -- you can't have a cat.
I repeat: You can't have a cat. Well, you can if it belonged to your dead grandmother, or if you found it on the street and felt sorry for it. But deliberate cat ownership -- going to a pet store or a shelter and acquiring a cat on purpose -- is verboten.
You can't have a cat.
You can't have a CAT?!?!?
What. The. Hell. Is wrong with these people?
What makes them think that masculinity is so delicate, so easily disturbed, that owning a cat will undermine it? What makes them think modern masculinity is so fragile that the entirely normal, even fundamental human activity of loving animals -- and the entirely reasonable decision that you like cats better than dogs -- puts it into peril? What makes them see this obvious signpost of “nurturing and willing to make a commitment” -- qualities that modern straight women are famously looking for in men -- as so repulsively feminine it renders men completely unfuckable?
What. The. Hell?
Now. I will freely acknowledge: I, and my social circle, are probably not the audience for this book. There's probably not a big market for books on How To Get Nerdy, Kinky, Non-Monogamously Married Bi-Dyke Sex Freaks To Date You. There is almost certainly a significant population of women -- fairly mainstream, fairly conventional, middle-class urban and suburban women -- who will read this book, laugh uproariously, and nod in vigorous agreement with everything in it. And there are almost certainly other women who will vigorously agree with parts of this book and vehemently disagree with others... agreements and disagreements that will be the complete opposite of my own.
But... well, actually, that's exactly my point. Here's what my wife Ingrid said when I was ranting to her about this book: “There are a million different ways to be a man, and there are a million different ways to be a woman.” And we each need to find out for ourselves what being a woman or being a man means for us... and how we want to express that. Yes, fashion is a language, with a common vocabulary; and yes, we should have a basic familiarity with that language so we can be sure we're saying what we want to. We don't want to say the sartorial equivalent of “My hovercraft is full of eels” when we're trying to say, “Please direct me to the railway station.” Ditto manners. But if we're going to make contact with people who we, personally, will connect with -- people whose feelings about masculinity and femininity are simpatico with our own -- we need to have the courage and confidence to say, “Here is who I am”... and not, “Here is another sheep in a blue polo shirt who's insecure about his masculinity and is terrified of being abnormal.”