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A Woman’s Handbag Is a Relationship Litmus Test

Tue, Dec 8, 2009

Advice, How To

handbug_pursephoto by *clairity*

For a single woman on the make, a purse doubles as an overnight kit: Her Fendi baguette will easily hold condoms, lube, toothbrush, spare undies, lipstick, business cards, gum, cellphone, and, if she was once a Girl Scout, a penis ring (“Be prepared!”). And, of course, if she’s out with a group of ladies, they will end up dancing around that handbag because there are no men to keep an eye on all the Kate Spades, and because groups of women always dance in a circle.

But for a woman with a purse on one arm and a dude on the other, suddenly a handbag is not just a handbag. It can become a litmus test for a straight man’s sexual security factor: When she asks him to hold her pastel pink pocketbook while she either pees, dances to “It’s Raining Men” with the girls, or holds back her friend’s hair while she pukes, does he adamantly refuse, does he hold it at arm’s length like it’s a soiled diaper, or does he slip it over his shoulder with an affable grin? There is a direct correlation between his comfort level with holding a handbag and how supportive he is of marriage rights for gays, how his mama raised him, and how amenable he’ll be to a little backdoor “reach around” with a pinkie (or more).

Of course, if you ask an unrepentant ladies man, he’ll tell you that a handbag is actually a devious way for a woman to mark her territory. He may even get relationship panic if she asks him to hold her bag while she pees, convinced she’s doing it only to ward off any competitors in her absence. Which means that the purse doubles as a handy litmus test for commitment-phobes, too! However, ladies, we wouldn’t attempt this maneuver on the first date: There is a season and a time for everything in relationships, and some things — like farting, meeting the parents, Japanese rope bondage, and treating your date like a hat-stand — are best saved for later.

For more tips on deciphering the dating scene, check out our book Rec Sex: An A-Z Guide to Hooking Up.

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13 Responses to “A Woman’s Handbag Is a Relationship Litmus Test”

  1. Jen Says:

    Kind of related, but there’s a beautiful article about marriage and purses at http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/magazine/articles/2009/10/04/will_he_hold_your_purse/ .

  2. figleaf Says:

    Overall I’m seriously opposed to the idea of “testing” partners by putting them through something you don’t actually care about other than whether they will or won’t pass.

    Still, as tests go I think this is a really good one because sometimes… you really do need your partner to hold you’re damn purse for you and it would be nice to know if he’ll do it or recoil in horror.

    By and large a man who’s comfortable and confident in himself and his sexuality (whatever his sexuality might be, but in this case presumably hetero) is going to be comfortable and confident holding your purse. And/or paradoxically, if a man who is worried that getting purse cooties will affect his “manliness” then… refusing to touch the purse isn’t going to solve anything.

    Finally, though, if he gets the sense that the only reason you’re asking is to put him on the spot, embarrass him, or otherwise test his “worthiness?” Well, turnabout’s fair play. Your test becomes an invitation for tests of his own and… while a good time could be had by all it’s not the most solid basis for a relationship.


  3. Dannie Says:

    I don’t think this article is specifically telling heterosexual women to deliberately test their partners by handing over their purses and watching what happens. I think the goal here is mostly to make women aware that, if there is an instance where she genuinely needs to have her guy hold her purse, his reaction to that request can say a lot about him. It seems to me more a recommendation to pay attention rather than go around testing people, because I agree that tests like that can open many troublesome doors.

  4. Madamoiselle L Says:

    No, my Man won’t hold my purse, ever. We’ve been together decades, and legal (married) have kids together, have bought houses together, invested money together, love each other immensely. This has nothing to do with lack of ability to commit. We’ve been loyal to each other since the 80s.

    This man also won’t buy female hygiene products, or even medication for himself when HE gets a yeast infection. He is not shy, but has some issues. LOL!

    I don’t if or how a man holds your purse indicates anything about a relationship. Some men feel uncomfortable holding a purse, and see nothing wrong with it. At least not enough to worry about.

  5. Rei Says:

    The reason guys don’t want to hold a woman’s purse is because he doesn’t want to be perceived as a gay man. No man wants anything feminine on him, unless its a woman. Some guys are just too caught up on what other guys are going to think.

  6. John Says:

    Wow. Why don’t you just call it “How to deviously see how much crap a guy will take from you”. Taking every good trait a man has and beating him over the head with it to purge it from him and teach him to hate women.

    Jen’s article about men in Cancer Clinics was 10 times what this is. THAT’S what real men do. You on the other hand see that kind of behavior as stupid and gullible. /retch

  7. Johnny Says:

    I’ll buy tampons, watch chick flicks, let a girl peg me, go monogamous, picket for gay rights… all that.

    But do NOT hand me a pocketbook to hold.

    She may as well say, “You stand here with my bag, while I run off with your balls!”

  8. twg Says:

    I agree that testing someone over this is ridiculous, but yeah, if I just needed to adjust my shoes or something and asked a boyfriend to grab my purse for a second and he balked, I would wonder how much he was actually into me. Admittedly, I carry a big camo knapsack instead of a purse, but still.

    Meanwhile, I thought that article in the Globe was ridiculous. Oh, I should date someone because they seem like they would stick by me when I’m sick? What about love and passion and values in common? Besides, even the most sturdy oak can break down under the right circumstances. You can’t know from the outset if someone is going to be there for you when the chips are down. You have to build something and hope you’re on the same page. Nothing is guaranteed, after all.

  9. Slartibartfast Says:

    I never really thought of the practice as any sort of litmus test, although I suppose it could serve that function. Dannie has the right take on it in my view. I’ve been happy to hold purses for both of my ex-girlfriends and innumerable girl friends without giving it a second thought. Occasionally a passing wag might comment “I like your purse” which is easily handled with “Thanks so much! I’ve always accessorized well.” It actually seems weird that anyone would feel their masculinity threatened by such a request. Hmmm… maybe I should go kick a puppy to attenuate any lingering feminization? Can I still exfoliate though?

  10. Ricky Says:

    OH I LOOOVE holding a girl’s purse for her. I have a purse fetish, and love dry humping them. If we’re at her house, or another house, and she goes into the bathroom, i’m on top of her purse like white on rice, riding it like i’m at a rodeo! I can care less about all that litmus testing stuff. I don’t care if we’re in a public place and she asks me to hold it for her. I’ll do more than that!! I’ll hold it in front of me, and slam it into my crotch, creating an awfully hard tent pole!

  11. ED Says:


  12. Timmay Says:

    Purse fetishers-SEE THIS GROUP! Click on my name for the link-you are not alone!

  13. Bob Says:

    Has nothing to do with looking effeminate carrying a women’s handbag no problems offering to help if it’s a geniune hands full scenario, it dumping your crap and treating males like a donkey intentionally that irritates.

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