Sex, Sex, Sex – Again

19 Mar

Here’s a nice little lesson in male stereotyping. Sheridan Simove recently published a book titled, “What Every Man Thinks About Apart From Sex.” The back cover [1] reads,

For millennia, humans have marvelled at the difference between men and women. It’s widely known that the female gender is far superior to men in most areas – emotionally, cognitively and socially. But, to date, the complex secrets of a man’s mind have eluded science. Apart from ‘sex’, what does a man actually think about? In this groundbreaking book, Professor Shed Simove, reveals the true depth of a man’s mind. After years of painstaking research, he has precisely identified what men actually think about apart from sex. Professor Simove beautifully reveals a man’s mind as an open book and the result unlocks an age old secret… Take a look inside – you’ll be amazed at how accurate and shocking the truth is…

The book, shockingly, is empty. Completely blank. 200 pages of white paper. As the Amazon.com description suggests, “This book is a humorous talking point and can also be used very effectively as a notebook.” Clever, for about half a second. Then it hits you – wait, there’s something off about this. The thought evolves – this is kind of offensive. And then – bam. Wait. REALLY???

This blog has explored this theme a few times: we’re taught from day 1 that men have one-track minds, that “they have two heads and only enough blood to run one at a time,” as my father used to say. We read headlines claiming that “men think about sex 5,000 times a year” [2], and other similarly ridiculous statistics. From so many stories from Greek mythology [3] to almost every contemporary beer commercial (see: YouTube), we’re taught that men are filled with primitive, carnal sexual urges that are too strong to be controlled. Women, in contrast, are “sugar and spice,” as pure as Mary, ever proper.

This gag book capitalizes on this male stereotype – in spades. According to Time Magazine [4], the book has”climbed the ranks of Amazon’s charts to No. 744, and even outsold both Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” as of March 15, 2011. I believe that this statistic says something powerful about society’s attachment to its male stereotypes.

Some of you may be reading this skeptically, saying, “But this book is hilarious! Obviously it’s a joke. Plus it’s written by a man, so how can it be sexist? Get a sense of humor.” So let’s flip the tables. What if an identically blank book were published under the title, “What Women Are Doing When They Aren’t Being Promiscuous, Whining, Talking on the Phone, Doing their Makeup, or Spending Your Hard-Earned Money.” Still funny? And if it were written by a woman? Any difference? I thought not.

The problem with this book is not this particular book. It’s that this item fits into a recent trend of pseudo-self help books that label men as “broken, retarded, or sexual deviants,” in the words of one online commenter [1]. This myth is perpetuated by a number of actual books with horrifically similar titles, such as:

  • How to Make Your Man Behave in 21 Days or Less Using the Secrets of Professional Dog Trainers (1994) (link)
  • I Don’t Need to Have Children, I Date Them: 23 Child Psychology Techniques to Use on Boys of All Ages (2001) (link)
  • Husband-ry 101: How to Train Your Husband to Be the Spouse You’ve Always Wanted Him to Be (2004) (link)
  • Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus (2004) (link)
  • The Scorecard: How to Fix Your Man in One Year or Less (2006) (link)
  • Retool Your Relationship: Fix the One You’re With (2010) (link)

Each of these titles perpetuates the gender binary system by polarizing men and women and reinforces society’s vision of men as simple, animalistic, emotionless creatures. This assault on manhood has real negative consequences for both men and women. Because men are expected to be strong, sexual caricatures of humanity, those individuals who fall outside the “norm” are shamed, shunned, and shut out. They are labeled as sissies, fags, wimps, mama’s boys, and losers.

Women ultimately lose, too. Because we are all taught that real men are aggressive and dominating, women are demoted to second fiddle – a role which many internalize. They learn to be passive and subservient. And they learn to desire men who manifest the stereotypes they’ve been taught. From this flawed logic comes the notion that “Nice Guys Finish Last.” While waiting for someone tall, dark, and handsome, women may miss out on quality relationships – both romantic and platonic – with men who don’t fit “the mold”.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Every-Thinks-About-Apart-Inside/dp/0956827810/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

[2] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/6950545/Men-think-about-sex-5000-times-a-year.html

[3] http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1500602/highlights_of_greek_mythology_the_scandalous.html

[4] http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/03/15/book-filled-with-blank-pages-outsells-harry-potter-and-the-da-vinci-code/

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