I have not, temporally speaking, been doing this here ladybusiness for all that long. (Some would draw a facetious comparison, in fact, to the amount of time I have in fact been a lady, but as that number would vary between never and 37 years depending on whether you asked Germaine Greer or Kate Bornstein, I’ll just move on.)
Yet even that short time, the depressing amount of material that exists out in the lady-hating or lady-indifferent or just lady, get me a beer world can drag you down. Why, you say to yourself as you labor over your blog in a hot kitchen (well, I’m baking cookies, see…) should I address another MRA apologia, tear apart another straw-feminist, or deal with this week’s Exciting Variation on the Tone Argument. (I solve those by getting louder.)
But then, as Sady herself discovered, you come across something absolutely stunning in its bold sweep, all-encompassing douchery, and just plain ol’ damnfoolishness. And yesterday, thanks to Liss at Shakesville, I came across just such a piece: an astonishing tour de force of just about every half-assed cliche in the whole wide world of gender-essentialism, and passive sexism.
Gentlesophonts, allow me to introduce you to “The Secret Lives of Married Men”, a visionary work of genius in the London Times by James Delingpole. To analyze it in detail is something out of my depth–you would need a PhD thesis to do it justice–but follow along with me as I keep a scorecard of the great joys to be had in this exemplary piece.
Wives, here is a fact you definitely don’t want to know about your husband: he wants to shag your best friend. Not only does he want to shag your best friend, but also your second and third-best friends. (And fourth, fifth, sixth, etc.) There’s nothing personal about this. In fact, in a strange way, he means it as a compliment.
With this astonishing paragraph, we are off, already following one of Dillingpole’s main themes: Men, they want to shtup everything, as Lenny Bruce used to say. Fear not, reader! He will return to this them again with shocking regularity in this piece. And for those of you who bought a ticket for our pool, we already have gender essentialism, boys-will-be-boys, and the Unstoppable Male Sex Drive! Hold on to those tickets, this looks like it’s going to be a wild ride!
It’s just one of those many things that Wives Just Don’t Understand.
Um… wow, I kinda thought I’d be out of the first paragraph before he tried to Mansplain something.
You see, as a man and a husband myself, I believe there are certain secrets to which the Opposition – ie, women/wives – should never be privy.
And here we begin to see that the long-rumored Apatovization of the United Kingdom is progressing apace! See, the boy-men are innocent people who want to do stuff their mommy-wives won’t allow! Thus they should lie, hide, obfuscate, and otherwise dissemble, because everyone knows that while mommy-wives are good at keeping house and the occasional tumble in the sack (when nothing better is available), they are in fact universally No Fun.
And what exactly is fun? Keep reading — it’s part of a writerly trick called building tension, as opposed to the living your life trick called being a douchebag.
– it’s an extension of man’s atavistic hunting-and-fighting instinct; the need to conceal his true intentions to fox his prey/opponent and ward off attack. Today, it has an equally important role to play in keeping a marriage together. “Telling the whole truth to your wife is neither realistic nor desirable.”
Ah, evolutionary psychology! What can’t you explain with your fanciful genes and highly accurate caveman thought experiments. (Well, there’s me — try and evopsych your way around me, you frakking… ah, moving on.) The best part of this passage is that it is by a “neuro-linguistic programming expert” named Steve, who also works as a marriage counselor. One wonders what his winning percentage is on that gig.
And lest you think these are just typically male-chauvinist perspectives, here is The Times’s sex expert, Suzi Godson:
See, what I say is truth, not sexism and outdated stereotypes! And you can trust me, because I got AN WOMAN to agree with me! And she’s an expert on the sexy stuff, so pay attention, ladies!
They’d only get the wrong end of the stick, as they usually do. And I don’t mean that in a nasty way; I mean it in a ‘This is what women are like’ way. They think differently from how we do. They’re from another planet. Giving it to them straight would be an act of wanton cruelty – to both parties.
Now, I know many of you are ready to cash in your scorecards — but before you do, I have to point out that not only is this a prime example of gender essentialism, but it’s also an example of completely othering women — making them not even human! And on top of it, it manages to make men the default human — nay, sophont! — species.
We really should have brought more prizes, I’m afraid. So let’s just skip ahead and pull out some more representative quotes. Please don’t call out Bingo until all the numbers are called:
Deep down, my wife probably knows I find childcare a bore, and that she does a way better job of it than me.
And it’s not that I don’t love my kids… It’s just that I like them to see me at my best, when I’m doing fun stuff with them, rather than worn down with tedious ferrying duties: recorder concerts, ballet classes, that kind of thing.
Being the main breadwinner has other advantages, too, such as never having to disclose to your wife how much of your earnings you are blowing on your vices.
It’s the wives who do all the real work in the marriage; all the thinking, all the forward-planning. If you can’t give them the lifestyle they want in return, you pay the penalty.
It is not natural for a man to be monogamous. [This is counselor Steve again. –Ed.]
That’s the problem with us men. No matter how old or ugly we are, no matter how secure and happy we are in our relationships, there’ll always be a small part of us that yearns to answer our atavistic urge to spread our gene pool as widely as we possibly can.
There was meltdown, but I remembered a wonderful film about comedian Lenny Bruce, who believed that, even if you are caught red-handed by your wife, you have to deny everything and keep denying it, until eventually she comes round because fundamentally she wants to believe you. And he is right.
Now, I know what you’re thinking — “C.L., anyone can fisk out some silly quotes from any piece. This truly can’t be as bad as you are saying.” Not true, mon hypocrite lecteur! For I have actually shown remarkable restraint in not quoting the whole damn article (which would just get me in trouble, anyway.) And I haven’t even touched the first person stories collected from his extremely scientific survey of the dudes he knows personally, including the guy who estimates that maybe one in eight married men is on the down-low, as the kids say today! Does that provoke a charming episode of gay panic and sideways homophobia? When we talk about an artiste of the caliber of James Delingpole, do you even need to ask? We are talking about the Bard of Dudebros here, people! The Studs Turkel of the man-boy set! The Howard Zinn of douchebaggery! The… uh… Tolkien… of… being a jerk… well, clearly metaphor fails me, for I am no James Delingpole.
“But C.L.,” you might clamor (do try to keep it down, I bother the neighbors enough playing piano), “but C.L., you might have some insight on this. You, after all, walked among these creatures, observed their curious ways, took part in their rituals! You are like a Tiresian Jake Sully, come back to tell us all! Is there any truth in this?”
First, you’re mixing two Eliot poems and Avatar — bad form, Reader! Second, why yes thank you, I do want to reflect more upon the living torture that was my earlier life! I had nothing better to do this evening.
But all right. You clearly aren’t going to get out and let me practice Famous Blue Raincoat for the nth time tonight. So: yes, guys do talk like this, amongst themselves. Sometimes they’re even serious. But, and this is the key, sometimes they’re not; sometimes, they’re just trying to live up to the absurd stereotypes that they associate with the male role. Many men do want to have sex with every woman they see; but there are probably a lot more who don’t, but think that they’re at least supposed to say they do. Or act like the women they love dearly and want to be part of their lives are stern governesses who keep them from doing the things they like — or are supposed to like, anyway. And so maybe even if they don’t feel like the guys in this article, they’ll act like they do — because it’s hard to not do so, and because there’s almost no reward for being humane, and because it’s so much easier to just go along with it, wrap yourself in the privileges of Guyness and ignore the costs to others — because that gets rewarded, and feted, and even gets five page articles in the London Times.
“So, C.L., are you saying that this article might in fact illustrate the ways that sexism and kyriarchy hurt men too? That without taking away from the enormous douchebaggery of the guys in the article, there is a sad commentary on the narrow, childish ways they think are the only way to be Real Men? That there is, in fact, a certain feminist angle you can take on this piece beyond mere mockery?”