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16.2.05

Machismo

In comments to a typically astute Hugo Schwyzer post, Aegis raises an interesting dilemma that (he says) faces heterosexual men who break out of traditional male roles: they can't get dates. As he puts it:

The problem is that in the real world of heterosexual relationships, guys who abide by most aspects of male gender roles are going to be more successful.

... For example, most women still expect the man to initiate things. Lots of women also still expect men to be assertive and stoic. Until this changes, it is highly counterproductive to expect men to completely "free" themselves from being assertive and stoic for instance, because those qualities are actually making them attractive towards women.


My first reaction to this was to think it's a quantity versus quality issue. I haven't exactly been a big ladies' man, though I can't entirely attribute my lack of dates to my failure to conform to traditional masculine norms. Yet the two long-term relationships I've had have been incredible, in large part because both my ex and my current girlfriend share my progressive views on gender and accept my lack of machismo.

One wonders, then, why a man who is uncomfortable with traditional masculinity would settle for a woman who demanded that he fill that role. Compared to other times and other genders, the social and economic pressures facing modern single men are rather light. Further, a woman who expects her partner to wear a mask of an uncomfortable gender role is unable to provide what I see as the most important attraction of a romantic relationship, a confidante with whom one can be completely open. This is particularly true since one of the elements of traditional masculinity is that men don't need to confide in anyone. Surely a guy's friends can provide as much emotional intimacy as a girlfriend or wife who demands he be someone he's not. So what's left to attract a progressive man to a non-progressive woman? Sex. Sex certainly has a powerful appeal. But how good can sex be night after night with someone you don't bond emotionally and philosophically with? Aegis's observations actually seem to suggest a half-baked feminist argument for porn: it can help non-macho men resist the temptation to sell out their ideals in order to get some, by providing another satisfying-for-purely-physical-reasons outlet for their libidos. A big problem here, though, is that most porn is marketed toward a caricature of a traditionally masculine customer -- so non-macho men would have trouble getting some in real life or virtually.

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