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The Distorted Idea That the So-Called "Masculinity Crisis" Is Caused by Successful Women

From the new book "Outdated," a look at our very dated ideas of masculinity and how they hurt our relationships and sex lives.

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I asked feminist/masculinity studies writer and teacher Hugo Schwyzer if, from his perspective, pickup art communities can be good for men. His response was, “Yes, in the sense that unhealthy fast food is better than starvation to someone who hasn’t eaten in a week. But it doesn’t address the root cause of so many men’s sense that they are losers in the sexual economy. It promises so much more than it delivers. . . . ” It’s unfortunate that men feel insecure about talking to women and when they go to find out what to do about it they find advice about how to control women, as opposed to learning how to respect and love them (and themselves).

Seduction isn’t inherently bad. Flirting and sexual tension are some of the most pleasurable parts of dating. The dance of meeting someone and the buildup of sexual tension that follows is exciting and can be extremely satisfying.

But there is a difference between someone who hits on you because they think you are sexy, smart, and awesome, and someone who sees you as a target to be controlled and willed into sexual submission. Pickup art is not about propping women up, supporting their sexuality, or having equal relationships; it’s about control and manipulation, plain and simple.

I have been “picked up” twice by guys who were trying the art of seduction on me. In both instances, I thought they were friendly and interesting at first, until they started making bizarre and personal comments and touching my shoulder. One even went so far as to say the girl he was supposed to meet that night was someone he had no “spark” for. (I suggested he tell her so.) I was confused by their actions in both cases, and in both cases the men were confused when I didn’t fall for their games. So it led me to the hypothesis that (feminism+self-esteem) x (pickup artist+corny lines) = pickup art dating system failure.

Moving to a New Model of Masculinity

The reason men so often benefit in the sexual economy of romance isn’t because women are too successful. It also isn’t because men don’t want to be in relationship, or because we have lost a traditional sense of what relationships should be. It is because sexism is still alive and thriving. Male self-esteem isn’t bound by the success of men’s relationships, but rather their financial status, sexual bravado, and how often they can get laid. And often what is hidden behind that bravado is a whole lot of insecurity. I know what it is like to date the cheater, the player, the self-hater, the misogynist, and the disaffected dudes. I’ve dated them all. But deep down, I’ve come to see how these behaviors all mask low self-esteem, an inability to adapt to a changing world, and difficulty navigating what it means to be a man.

If men are no longer providers, where is their self-esteem going to come from? While women may not always need the financial support of men, what we do need more than anything is the emotional support of men in our romantic relationships. Sadly, this is one thing traditional masculinity is not good at teaching young men how to do: to deal with their emotions around romance and sexuality. So instead of looking at external factors based in sexist assumptions of what it means to be a man—like lack of solid income, career goals, and ability to commit—we should be thinking about what young men need to support themselves and the women in their lives emotionally. It seems like many men are opting out of traditional ideas of masculinity, but what is the non-man-boy alternative?

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