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SEXIST BEATDOWN: The Retrosexual Trend-Piece Writing Code Edition

The Retrosexual! Who is he? What are his ways and principles? Are his website design skills as hilariously bad as one might hope they are?

Thanks to our delightful comment section, I have found the answer! I have found, in fact, the Code of the “Retrosexual,” one of the many forms of gender-role historical re-enactmenter participating in this our current “Menaissance” (I am just straight-up going with it like it’s a thing! You make up a stupid term, I use the term! Over and over, until you get JUST HOW STUPID IT IS), along with trend-piece writers who won’t stop cranking out pieces about how women really want to bone dudes who act like Don Draper and, I dunno, those bros who are always Icing bros.

This Code is notable for many things: Looking as if it were designed approximately 12 years before the Internet even existed, and being basically plagiarized by more than one real-live grown-up publication that should know better are two such things, for example. However, it also endorses the following!

Hideous bodily injury!

A Retrosexual should have at least one good wound he can brag about getting.

Child abuse!

You are NOT allowed to see a shrink because Daddy didn’t pay you enough attention. Daddy was busy DEALING WITH IT. When you screwed up, he DEALT with you.

Watching “Glee!”

A Retrosexual watches no TV show with “Queer” in the title.


A Retrosexual should know how to properly kill stuff (or people) if need be.

I… I think it’s time to discuss this. With Amanda Hess of The Sexist!

Beer_Hunter_MillerAd05MILLUSTRATION: The most Retro Sexual of all!

SADY: HELLO Let us travel back in time! Retrosexually!

AMANDA: Oh lets! I am excited to kill animals (and also possibly humans! I guess!) in the service of Retrosexualism. But not overly excited, for feelings are for women.

SADY: The Retrosexuals, they don’t have feelings! I will tell you what they have, however: A very detailed and complicated system for figuring out who should give up their seat to whom on a public bus. Also, some gender-based insecurities! Lots of those! And a fuzzy and somewhat inaccurate understanding of how awesome things were For The Dudes, back in some unspecified but distinctively non-feminist time period!

AMANDA: Indeed! It seems that in the olden days, even horrific natural disasters couldn’t stop the manliest citizens. They just DEALT WITH IT. Not like all those present-day sissies in like, New Orleans? And Haiti? Being a thoroughly modern . . . sexual, I am understandably a bit confused on the finer points of this theory.

SADY: Yeah. I mean, the whole “Retrosexual” thing is just… These are young dudes, I’m thinking. At least, younger than Don Draper would currently be, which is like nine hundred and seventeen years old, or maybe seventy, I am bad at math.

AMANDA: I like the game of predicting the Dude behind the Retrosexual Code!

SADY: They haven’t actually experienced the time periods they’re romanticizing, is what I’m saying. They don’t know what it’s like to be told that you need to get married and have kids before you’re thirty or everyone will think that you’re emotionally disturbed or gay. They don’t know what it’s like to live in a world where a two-income household isn’t really a feasible possibility.

AMANDA: Yeah. And that’s why being a Retrosexual takes aim at topics as diverse as the inherent emasculation of marriage and … Hot Topic. HOT TOPIC! It has been feminizing our nation’s men for too long!

SADY: The Retrosexual Code is, like… I agree with you. I want to know WHO THIS DUDE IS, because some of this stuff is just bizarre. Like, there’s some predictable shitty homophobia: “A Retrosexual watches no TV show with ‘Queer’ in the title.” I expected that. But also: “A Retrosexual will have at least one outfit in his wardrobe designed to conceal himself from prey.” Did Dwight Schrute write this list? I think Dwight Schrute wrote it. “A Retrosexual knows that owning a gun is not a sign that your are riddled with fear.” “A Retrosexual should have at least one good wound he can brag about getting.” A Retrosexual owns a beet farm. A Retrosexual knows karate. A Retrosexual wishes he could menstruate, because he wouldn’t need a calendar. It all follows.

AMANDA: I am frankly confused by anyone interested in recruiting other people into conforming to whatever gender presentation they have chosen for themselves.

SADY: Yeah. I mean, that’s how gender policing works: It’s not enough for you to be the Butchest Butch Dude Who Has Ever Butched A Butch, you have to make sure that everyone ELSE does it, because otherwise people will pick up that butchness, like everything else, is performative.

AMANDA: But that’s the strangest part of the Retrosexual movement—and the “Menaissance” in general (ugh). They appear to be fighting against the women who have forced them to “conform” to an emasculating version of manhood by … setting up codes for being a proper Retrosexual? Offering step-by-step guides for learning to become a real man, again?

SADY: Yeah. I mean, if you have to buy a book subtitled “How To Be A Real Man,” doesn’t that point to… not-realness? Of your manlihood?

AMANDA: It’s the same old thing with gender-policing conservatives, which Amanda Marcotte in particular has pointed out many times before: On the one hand, they want you to think that a certain version of “manhood” is natural, and on the other, they emphasize that it takes a lot of work to learn to be a “natural” man. I will admit that it keeps the AskMen creative juices flowing.

SADY: Ha, yes. I mean, on the one hand, I imagine that dudes seek this stuff out for the same reason that ladies read “He’s Just Not That Into You,” or whatever: It’s confusing to be a person, and frequently painful, and everyone wants to believe there’s some secret set of rules that they can follow to make sure things turn out well, or at least to make sure that they know what’s going on. And they don’t notice that “He’s Just Not That Into You” is pages upon pages of basically emotional abuse, telling you that it was your fault for loving some dude and thinking your relationship could work out and it’s your fault it didn’t. And they don’t notice that all of these “STOP BEING SUCH A MOTHERFUCKING PUSSY AND OWN A GUN” dude manuals are the same kind of emotional abuse, just basically berating you for not being male enough. They think it’s helping.

AMANDA: I just feel sorry for whoever AskMen is speaking to. If you can identify with the Regular Guy writing these columns—if you see your girlfriend as a whining, gold-digging harpy who wants to bleed you emotionally and financially, and think the world is out to get you because you don’t apologize for enjoying drinking beer and “shooting hoops”— you have some problems that even AskMen cannot solve. I imagine the entire point of that website is to convince men that they’re being persecuted for enjoying extremely normal and in fact boring activities? Like “watching the game” and “throwing back a few beers.” Which everyone does and no one particularly minds. It’s the weird “everyday hero” thing that I guess keeps selling a certain beer brand over another.

SADY: Yeah. That’s the thing. I mean, the not-so-secret ace in the hole for continuing to be sexist has long been, “I can’t help it! I’m made this way!” Like, the “dudes are inherently vulgar and stupid and hump everything and just basically are like dogs who can talk, be glad they’re not chewing on the furniture and pissing on the carpet” card, which I don’t understand why men keep playing. Men say TERRIBLE SHIT about themselves all the time, frequently on ladysites where they are The One Dude Who Tells Everyone What All Dudes Are Like, but they don’t seem to recognize how much they downplay their own abilities. Or they do, but it’s an excuse. Like, embracing a shitty version of manhood is a way to defend yourself when someone points out that you, specifically, are being a shitty person.

AMANDA: Yeah. And then also: When it is suggested that men maybe don’t have to conform to the idea of lowest common denominator masculinity quite so much, the response is: “women are trying to change us from our real-manliness!” But interestingly, also: “IT’S WORKING! so we must fight this by desperately teaching other men how to do that lowest common denominator masculinity shit again!”

SADY: The idea is that feminism is working, and women have power now, and there’s all of this built-up resentment at the idea that the women of the world are dictating at least some of the terms of social engagement. So you just sit there and go, “I AM A MAN! I HAVE AN ENTIRE WEBSITE ABOUT IT! I WON’T BUDGE FROM THE PRINCIPLES OUTLINED ON THE CRAPPILY DESIGNED WEBSITE WHERE YOU CAN FIND OUT ABOUT MY MANHOOD!”

AMANDA: It just seems a little desperate, I guess. I just don’t know who is furthering the Important Feminist Cause of making sure men don’t have camouflage outfits in their closets, or forcing dudes to watch gay television shows. The problem instead appears to be that some men choose not to wear camo and some like gay TV. Like some gay men for example. And those men are not real and that’s bad. Who hates men now, men?

SADY: I don’t know. I mean, I guess in a way I am strangely encouraged by the “Menaissance?” Because people don’t get defensive unless they think they are actually losing something. Like, if this whole “feminism” thing were actually completely ineffectual, men would still have unmitigated privilege, and they wouldn’t basically be having aneurysms and throwing tantrums about all these powerful women and the ability they have to influence societal expectations of gender.

AMANDA: Right, and it is also funny, kind of? Because a conservative screed published on a website that looks like it’s from 1993 is always ripe for mockery. Particularly when the New Masculinity goes by the name “Retrosexual.” Come on, dude.

SADY: SERIOUSLY. I mean, what’s amazing is that it’s also showing up in real, non-idiot-focused publications. Never underestimate the power of totally wackadoo male heterosexual insecurity to change the course of events! In fact, it is the only thing that ever has! Except for feminism, which is winning. So, in conclusion, maybe these dudes should just… DEAL WITH IT?????? I hear it is what A Real Man does, after all!

AMANDA: Haha. I mean, I’m the last person to begrudge some guys from dressing up and playing Mad Men, not that that activity sounds particularly masculine to my ears. The only part of the Menaissance I quibble with are the parts where men are forced to wear dumb fedoras and/or camo pants, depending on your flavor of Retrosexuality, and also the part where everything is the fault of women and GOD MOM they are the worst. But! I’ve heard that a very Retrosexual way of DEALING WITH MY PROBLEMS is to go online and make a website about it, and that’s essentially what we’re doing here, so perhaps we are all not so different!

SADY: Right. I mean, if dudes are into wearing handsome suits and knowing about scotch, more power to them! I enjoy both a good scotch AND suity dudes! I just wish dudes could recognize that a decent palate and good fashion sense are… pretty girly? As is running a website entirely about your gender and how persecuted it is?

AMANDA: Exactly.

SADY: I think they just all want to be feminist bloggers basically. They want to be us. And who wouldn’t?


  1. Sarah TX wrote:

    butchness, like everything else, is performative


    Seriously, we need to make t-shirts.

    Friday, June 4, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Permalink
  2. dave glasser wrote:

    I prefer this definition of retrosexual:,9171,1921609,00.html

    Friday, June 4, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Permalink
  3. queen emily wrote:

    I love how by coming up with a cutesy term they’re *already* involved in fashion, and hence consigning themselves to the performative and “inauthentic.”

    Retrosexual? That’s sooo early 2010. I remember it well, twas after the collapse of post-chillwavecore. All across America, bros shaved their beards and wore expensive suits for 3 months…

    Friday, June 4, 2010 at 6:11 pm | Permalink
  4. Mel wrote:

    Wow, that code is…fascinating.

    Retrosexuals sound like so much fun to date.


    A Retrosexual man doesn’t need a contract — a handshake is good enough. He will always stand by his word even if circumstances change or the other person deceived him.

    Apparently the Retrosexual doesn’t want to have any legal recourse against someone cheating him. Perhaps the Retrosexual likes to lose all his money (perhaps all his family’s money!) on shady business deals. It’s manly!

    Friday, June 4, 2010 at 6:16 pm | Permalink
  5. Haha – the retrosexual code reads exactly like satire. Like, if I was trying to come up with an obviously sarcastic and mock version, that’s about what I’d come up with. Hilarious!

    Friday, June 4, 2010 at 7:26 pm | Permalink
  6. Oriniwen wrote:


    (I would ….)

    Friday, June 4, 2010 at 7:28 pm | Permalink
  7. Nanuq wrote:

    Sady, you are exceptionally hilarious in this edition. Thank you for making my day.

    Friday, June 4, 2010 at 7:40 pm | Permalink
  8. David wrote:

    Mel: But if someone cheats him, he’ll “know how to properly kill” them. So that’s all right, then.

    Friday, June 4, 2010 at 8:05 pm | Permalink
  9. Eneya wrote:

    Sady: Right. I mean, if dudes are into wearing handsome suits and knowing about scotch, more power to them! I enjoy both a good scotch AND suity dudes! I just wish dudes could recognize that a decent palate and good fashion sense are… pretty girly?

    I think they just all want to be feminist bloggers basically. They want to be us. And who wouldn’t?

    Just awesome. In just a few sentences you completely debunked retrosexuality and retromanliness. 🙂
    Also, I always find that kind of people sounding strikingly similar to some other people who wish for the good old days of the pre-civil war. Witch non of them lived unless they all are secretly some fucking (sparkling) vampires, which came from either True Blood or Twilight… which would make sense. But they aren’t. So… just romantic (wasn’t that girly again?).

    Friday, June 4, 2010 at 9:53 pm | Permalink
  10. It would please me to see the fedoras + camo pants combination become popular.

    And glitter! There could be glitter!

    Friday, June 4, 2010 at 10:08 pm | Permalink
  11. Victoria wrote:

    @ Dave Glasser: Interestingly, also nostalgia-driven. Probably also false/fictionalized nostalgia, too.

    Friday, June 4, 2010 at 10:34 pm | Permalink
  12. Bri wrote:

    “A Retrosexual man can chop down a tree and make it land where he wants.

    Wherever it lands is where he damn well wanted it to land.”

    This made me hope that the list was at least partially tongue-in-cheek!

    Friday, June 4, 2010 at 11:37 pm | Permalink
  13. Rachel_in_WY wrote:

    I think that might be Adam Carolla’s dad in the beer hunter pic. Which would explain a lot.

    Friday, June 4, 2010 at 11:44 pm | Permalink
  14. Robert wrote:

    My dad was my role model for all that is manly – which was handy, in retrospect – and he would not have scored very high on this retrosexual purity test.

    I’ve actually grown up to be a man in very much the way my dad was, for which my husband is grateful. I take care of my spouse and children and treat people in general with kindness and courtesy. Guess I’m just not DEALING WITH IT.

    Saturday, June 5, 2010 at 1:11 am | Permalink
  15. Seth Gray wrote:


    Well, no, actually. I’m very fond of my man parts. There’s not a day goes by that I don’t need them for SOMETHING. Always lots of uses for them.

    But otherwise, I wanna be you!

    Saturday, June 5, 2010 at 1:15 am | Permalink
  16. Pidgey wrote:

    “They want to be us. And who wouldn’t?”
    Oh Sady, this is the reason why I love reading your blog so much. I hope you have better fedora experiences in the future, so you can appreciate fedoras for the awesome headgear that they are.

    Saturday, June 5, 2010 at 6:58 am | Permalink
  17. Smoovie wrote:

    “I don’t know. I mean, I guess in a way I am strangely encouraged by the “Menaissance?” Because people don’t get defensive unless they think they are actually losing something.”

    This this this. As traditional masculinity is breaking down and men are more frequently taking on traditionally feminine qualities, women are less “other,” and a class cannot be oppressed without being othered. The “mennaisance” backlash is a very clear indicator that men invested in their privilege are trying to maintain the othering of women as patriarchy loses its grip.

    Saturday, June 5, 2010 at 4:17 pm | Permalink
  18. Nikki wrote:

    A Retrosexual man’s favorite movie isn’t “Maid in Manhattan” (unless that refers to some foxy French maid sitting in a huge tub of brandy or whiskey), or “Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.”

    Nailed the examples. Dude knows what he’s talking about.

    Saturday, June 5, 2010 at 7:59 pm | Permalink
  19. I wish I could be as encouraged as you are by the latest ‘men in crisis’ fad of the Retrosexual (oh lordy!). But the whole ‘losing our masculinity’ story has been around for hundreds of years, with fairly impossible standards of what counts as a man circulating at any given time. Seriously. Long before there were blogs about this stuff, there were pamphlets. Back in the time they did the pamphlet thing (Michael Kimmel tells this story.). There’s no better example of false naturalisation than masculinity, when you look at the history of it!

    And while, yes, on the one hand I totally agree that there’s a self-defeating anxiety lying behind all of this and it’s kinda encouraging, I also see how the story about the loss of masculinity plays out in certain contexts. It’s bound up with some serious, profound anger that can be activated in contemporary forms of masculinity, because masculinity is a thing, supposedly, that men are entitled to, but womenfolk are taking from them. Like when mothers get custody in divorces and men feel like they’ve been utterly screwed over and respond by being violent, and sometimes even killing children and/or ex-wives, for example, and some other MRA stuff that takes place around family courts… I just can’t detach the hilarious foolishness of things like the Retrosexual from the astonishingly profound fury that fuels so much violence against women, because the story that men are losing who they naturally are, and who the world ought to acknowledge them to be, because of, say, feminism, is so pervasive. I dunno. So much a part of the whole ‘I am no longer as privileged as I believe I ought to be/other people like me ought to be; therefore THE WORLD IS ENDING AND WE MUST FIGHT’ thing; which we see in most privileged identities, really.

    Mocking Retrosexuals, on the other hand, is an extremely useful discursive counter to all of this, and I did really love, as always, the Sexist Beatdown. You two rock, and it is unsurprising that there are men out there trying to be you. 🙂

    Saturday, June 5, 2010 at 10:44 pm | Permalink
  20. Muse of Ire wrote:

    trend-piece writers who won’t stop cranking out pieces about how women really want to bone dudes who act like Don Draper

    Silly trend-piece writers. Women don’t want to bone men who ACT like Don Draper, only men who LOOK like Don Draper. Rrowr! Come over here and let me objectify you, baby!

    Sunday, June 6, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Permalink
  21. CassieC wrote:

    What Bri said.

    “A Retrosexual man can chop down a tree and make it land where he wants.
    Wherever it lands is where he damn well wanted it to land.”

    This is a quote from someone with a sense of humor, or someone who once chopped down a tree and had it land on his girlfriend’s roof and she sued him for it while watching his favorite movie, the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, which he now no longer likes as much. Or something.

    Sunday, June 6, 2010 at 3:05 pm | Permalink
  22. Emily wrote:

    “Retrosexual” brings to mind an image of a guy dressed up in tie-dye bell-bottoms or tight leather pants or legwarmers or something like that…

    Sunday, June 6, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Permalink
  23. Schroduck wrote:

    I don’t think you can call The Daily Mail “a real-life grown-up publication that should know better”, sadly. It’s quite infamously Britain’s worst paper, and when it’s not writing stories about how goshdarn much it hates immigrants and health & safety laws, its pages are filled with basically nothing but Men are from Mars, Women are from the kitchen rubbish.

    Monday, June 7, 2010 at 8:11 am | Permalink
  24. scrumby wrote:

    “A Retrosexual knows how to tie a Windsor knot when wearing a tie – and ONLY a Windsor knot.”

    What nonsense. Are we really supposed to believe he didn’t just write this cause “Windsor Knot” sounds cool? I’m betting he doesn’t even use a Windsor but a half Windsor and doesn’t know the difference…

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 11:04 pm | Permalink
  25. erik worlfmann wrote:

    God help the pansies out there who can tie more than one kind of tie knot.

    Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 6:06 pm | Permalink
  26. Bard wrote:

    Hey, I like my ugly fedora, thank you very much. By ugly fedora of course, I mean my 3 ugly fedora knock-offs, but whatever.

    As a man who’s something of a fruit, I’ve been just sitting back and laughing about this whole Menaissance debacle. Especially when it gets picked up by the “bros” around college campuses. I don’t know about other states, but Idaho is riddled with the camo-wearing neo-con manly men.

    There should be more ugly fedoras and suits.

    Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 11:36 am | Permalink

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