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Comments of the Week: Living Outside the Box

Wed, Jun 8, 2011

Comment of the Week, Confessions

photo via Flickr

We recently highlighted an article by sex educator Charlie Glickman about how, in order to be perceived as “real men,” heterosexual guys have to live in a box of strict and limited gender stereotypes. It sparked a little debate in the comments section:

Johnny: This article leaves women out altogether! Female reaction has everything to do with the construction of the man-box once you’re, say, over 18 years old.

The fact is that men who possess strongly stereotypical masculine traits get the best results, sexually speaking. They have the most partners, and the most attractive partners. I’d say that this goes for gay guys too, but that’s another discussion…

So either you’re in the box, or you’re trying to fight your way into the box. Not to impress other dudes, but to get the chicks.

The author seems focused on men who make asses of themselves trying to fight their way into the box – the bullies, the homophobes, the try-hard tools.

I like to think that I, for one, have slipped smoothly into the man-box without being a dick. And it’s worked out well for me. The man-box is a good place to be if you’re not a jackass.

Goodknit: “The fact is that men who possess strongly stereotypical masculine traits get the best results, sexually speaking.”

I couldn’t disagree more! I would say that men who are open and honest, who celebrate who they really are, and seek out the partners and lifestyle that they really enjoy, are the ones who get the best results.

As I read it, idea of this article is that men don’t all actually want the same things, the same partners, the same quantity of partners. Neither do we all look the same, act the same, have the same interests, or want the same careers. So we shouldn’t pretend that we do! We get to be whoever we are, want what we want, and live the lives we want… not worry about whether we live up to some social norm of “maleness.”

So it’s not about how “to get the chicks,” my friend. Believe it or not, women aren’t all looking for the same kind of man, either. And, Johnny, if you’re having success with women now, you probably still will, even if you step out of the proverbial man box.

Johnny: We’ll have to agree to disagree on that, Goodknit. I’ve been out of the box, and I’ve been in the box. In the box is better socially, professionally, sexually and psychologically.

And as a sexually preoccupied person, to me, there can be no greater proof of the box’s righteousness than feminine approval. Women respond to me WAAAAAAY better when I’m in the box. And it’s not just to me. Women like boxed-in men best, even if there are exceptions to that generalization.

I love the box! No pun intended.

We asked Charlie himself to weigh in on this back and forth:

Charlie Glickman: @Johnny — While I don’t question your experience with having sex with “the most partners, and the most attractive partners”, I can’t help but wonder what it is about that that defines “sexual success” for you.

There’s nothing in there about the joys of getting to know someone, even if it’s a one night stand or a trick. There’s nothing in there about the discovery of new ways to experience pleasure, connection, joy, or love. There’s nothing about exploring different types of sex, and believe me, there are some amazing pleasures out there. There’s nothing in there about how you feel about your sexual experiences- it’s all about bagging the babes.

For that matter, there’s nothing in there about the pleasures and experiences of your partners. Does it matter to you that they enjoy it? That they feel happy after? Or do their experiences not factor into your definition of sexual success?

So does that mean you have the “best results”? Well, by your definition, it does. It seems rather limited to me, but then, as I’ve said, I don’t care much for the Box.

We emailed Charlie with our own follow-up question:

Em & Lo: What do you say to the idea that women respond to men who are in the box more than men who are out of it (and by respond, we mean seem to be attracted to, pursue, accept dates from, have sex with, try to have relationships with). Also, what can women do to help men get out of the box?

Here’s what he told us:

Charlie Glickman: I think that many women who are in their Box do respond favorably to the man in the Box, just as he responds to them. So within those groups, there is a mutually-reinforcing cycle. IMO, as long as both folks are doing it because it’s genuinely what they want to, rather than acting out of embarrassment or shame or other negative emotions, great! But it’s hard to be sure of one’s motivations when the world is encouraging a particular behavior.

It’s also worth noting that plenty of women feel ambivalent about the guy in the Box or actively dislike/avoid him. That seems to be especially true as women get older and discover that the Box often discourages men from being good partners. The fact that this one dude gets to bang lots of women doesn’t necessarily say anything about how they feel about him and my observation is that men start to discover this as they get older. Which is part of why they sometimes seek younger women.

As far as supporting men around this, I think there are lots of things. Make room for his feelings. Recognize that he may process them differently, or need practice to learn how to do it. If you judge him for not being macho, don’t dump that on him- process your feelings elsewhere. Make room for him to experiment. (Remember when metrosexuals were a trend and lots of people freaked? Seemed silly to me, but I’ve been a flamer since I was about 3. ;-)

I know there’s more to it, but that’s what’s coming to mind right now.

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One Response to “Comments of the Week: Living Outside the Box”

  1. Johnny Says:

    Ah jeez. I just typed a lengthy reply only to have it killed by a bad internet connection. I’ll try to do it again in a shorter, bulleted way.

    1. “I can’t help but wonder what it is about that that defines “sexual success” for you.”

    It means me, happy with the amount and quality of sex I’m having. More on this later. *

    2. “There’s nothing in there about…getting to know someone… There’s nothing in there about the discovery of new ways to experience pleasure, connection, joy, or love….”

    That’s because they didn’t seem like part of the discussion at the time, not because I consider those things unimportant. But since we’re on it I’d say that contrary to the stereotype of the emotionally stunted womanizer, guys who get laid alot get to experience all those wonderful things more, not less.

    3. “For that matter, there’s nothing in there about the pleasures and experiences of your partners. Does it matter to you that they enjoy it? That they feel happy after?”

    Again it didn’t seem like part of the discussion at the time. But yes and yes, both those things matter to me very much. I can talk shit all I want about how much fun women have in the sack with me, but the real indicator is their rate of return: I almost never have one night stands, and they almost always come back for more. I take that to mean that they’re enjoying themselves too. * – back to question number one, a “successful” sex life is never one sided. I only like it when my partners like it.

    4. “I think that many women who are in their Box do respond favorably to the man in the Box, just as he responds to them. So within those groups, there is a mutually-reinforcing cycle.”

    Sure, to a certain degree. But – as I was trying to say in the first place – many men get driven to the box by women themselves. Many men have bought into the bullshit notion that women want Mr. Sensitive, only to be shocked as hell when they find themselves VERY harshly treated by thier women for lack of masculinity. As in, cheated on, ridiculed, belittled, bossed around… and I’m not saying that this is a small minority of guys. I’m saying that this is the typical experience for non-boxed men.

    5. “as long as both folks are doing it because it’s genuinely what they want to, rather than acting out of embarrassment or shame or other negative emotions, great!”

    Why is shame not a valid motivator? Shame taught me to dance – albeit still badly – and shame got my skinny ass into the gym. How should I have felt about being an uncoordinated spaz with a dumpy body? Proud? Not likely. And I’m happy now, whatever motivated me to make that change. I think an unconditional “I’m ok and you are too” attitude is a recipe for complacency. I hold myself to standards and when I fail in them I feel bad about myself – aka ashamed. And I think that’s a good thing.

    6. “women get older and discover that the Box often discourages men from being good partners.”

    That’s a huge assumption and I disagree with it.

    7. “The fact that this one dude gets to bang lots of women doesn’t necessarily say anything about how they feel about him”

    Wuh? Of course it does! In fact it’s the single strongest indicator of womens’ attitude toward a dude.

    8. “It’s also worth noting that plenty of women feel ambivalent about the guy in the Box or actively dislike/avoid him.”

    Also not true. Some women may react unfavorably to their impression of the box because they’re used to the type of douchebag described in the original article – bullies, homophobes and adolescent boys. But I’ve never met a single straight woman -anywhere, ever – who says she’s unattracted to classily-executed masculinity.


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