elizaI had a discussion the other day with a friend who said that, in the opinion of several women he knew, most men had become ‘extra children’ in their families, led around by the nose, in fact if not in appearance, by their spouses or girlfriends. This ceding of authority, responsibility and decision-making is considered, he speculated, a fair trade-off by both sexes. Women haven’t been pleased with how most men exercise their authority, and are fed up with men’s incompetence at making decisions, especially financial ones. Meanwhile men have concluded that being the ‘boss’ of the family is thankless and usually more trouble than it’s worth. My friend and I agreed that:

  • Women generally decide who their mates will be, rather than men, despite courtship rituals designed to make it appear otherwise. They also usually decide when and how the relationship will end, even if it’s the male’s actions (or lack thereof) that often precipitate this decision.
  • If a man’s home is his castle, it is the woman who generally selects it and makes all key decisions on its layout and operation.
  • Women generally have final say on big-ticket financial decisions of the partnership.

I find this completely unsurprising. In fact I think it is a natural and healthy development, and hope it will become a global phenomenon. In nature, it is not uncommon for male birds to build several nests during mating season. The female signals her choice of home, and hence of husband, by feathering the vacant nest of her choice. The male builds only the exterior structure; the female does all the interior ‘decoration’.

What got me thinking further about this was a recent paean to women over fifty by Andy Rooney, sent to me by fellow Slogger Susan Hales:

If an over 50 woman doesn’t want to watch the game, she doesn’t sit around whining about it. She does something she wants to do. And it’s usually something more interesting. An over 50 woman knows herself well enough to be assured in who she is, what she is, what she wants, and from whom. Few women past the age of 50 give a damn what you might think about her or what she’s doing…Over 50 women are generous with praise, often undeserved. They know what it’s like to be unappreciated…Over 50 women are forthright and honest. They’ll tell you right off you are a jerk if you are acting like one. You don’t ever have to wonder where you stand with them. We praise over 50 women for a multitude of reasons. Unfortunately, it’s not reciprocal. For every stunning, smart, well-dressed woman of 50+, there is a bald, paunchy relic in yellow pants making a fool of himself with some 22-year-old waitress.

blackbirdI don’t usually agree with Rooney but he’s entirely right about this. If the world were run solely by women over 50, it would be a much better place. But I don’t think the trend my friend was describing, the ceding of authority and responsibility to women, is because men realize women are better at running relationships, homes, and financial enterprises (although generally they are). I think most men really are children at heart. Given the choice, I think most men really don’t want responsibility; what they really want are four very simple things.

A few caveats before I enumerate these four things. First, what I am about to say is a generalization, and generalizations can be dangerous, and have many exceptions. Also, while I think I understand most men, from personal experience, I really don’t understand conservative men. This desire to discipline others, to dominate, to belittle and judge and restrict, seems to me totally inhuman and unnatural, and the best I can fathom is that conservatism is a kind of inherited disease, since it seem to run in families. Instinct, common sense, and a modicum of humour would seem to be cures for this disease, but unfortunately the conservatives I know seem blessed with none of these.

treehouseI should also say that I have no real idea what women want. I have a suspicion that they want the same four things as men, plus a fifth very practical thing: A secure and comfortable environment in which to raise healthy children. But it’s only a guess. I sense that they have taken over the aforementioned authority and responsibility from men reluctantly rather than out of thirst for power, and only because for the most part when men exercise authority and responsibility they fuck it up royally.

And if you believe anything written by John Gray, the Mars/Venus guy (“men just want respect and admiration from their wives”), you will find my list really annoying, because his list is almost the opposite of mine. I won’t tell you what you want to hear, since I’m not writing to be popular and sell a lot of books. I’m going to tell you the truth.

On to the list. Men really want four things, in this order of priority:

  1. Lazy, easy, fun sex with many different, enthusiastic partners. The old joke about the perfect day for a man is no joke at all — it’s completely accurate. I remember during the 1970s when it was possible, and acceptable, to pick up (or just as often, be picked up by) a new member of the opposite sex (or same sex if you were so inclined) every day, and go home for sex just for fun. It was easy, there was no wooing or ‘work’ involved, there were no expectations, and it was pure pleasure. Women learned an enormous amount about what they, and what men, enjoyed sexually by sheer variety of experience, and they told you exactly what they wanted — or they took the initiative and showed you. And we learned a lot this way. We became competent in the selection and use of sex toys, simply by practice, delightful trial and error. There was no pressure, there were no rituals. It was play. That’s not to say it was shallow and emotionless. Sex was joyous, uncomplicated, and the emotion was much like that of children playing tag — rich and energetic and ecstatic — but we didn’t take it personally. It wasn’t a competition, with rules and restrictions. If it feels good, do it. That was the only rule. Maybe that’s immature, but so what? I certainly felt the women with whom I played enjoyed this simple, pleasurable game as much as I did. And not only was it physically pleasurable for both partners, and great exercise, it was wonderful for the ego. You can’t share that many laughs and smiles with that many women and not have (and give back) a very high sense of self-esteem. At no time in my life did I give, or receive, so many genuine compliments. Another new wonderful body to explore and discover each night, spooned in front of you, or behind you. Waking you up with an exquisite and experienced mouth on your lingam or yoni. And you were so relaxed and sated that sometimes the sex was marathon — two hours or four hours or six hours and then more again in the morning. I even remember being given permission from a laughing young lady to indulge in slow, selfish, languorous seconds (or was it thirds) without waking her up — rather than being revolted that I could be so impersonal she was flattered that I couldn’t resist ravishing her body again so soon. And she soon returned the favour, using a velcro ring to keep me ‘up’ as I nodded off in blissful sleep, and then riding me all night long while I faded in and out of delighted consciousness. Childsplay. With toys that offered limitless variety, limitless pleasure. Every man’s (and perhaps woman’s?) dream. Except it was reality. We had it. Why did we give it up? It’s completely natural. John Prescott has hypothesized that sexual repression as adolescents (along with neglect and abuse as children) is the root cause of all human violence. Variety of partners also encourages more genetic intermixing, which works with natural selection to strengthen and evolve the species.
  2. To play games. I’m sure there are men out there who don’t like playing games, but I’ve never met any. Many men’s dream would be to play games all day long (except when they weren’t having lazy, easy, fun sex with many different, enthusiastic partners of course). I personally don’t play or enjoy golf, but the game intrigues me because essentially it’s a game of solitaire, that you play with other people just to be sociable. Same thing with fishing. Guys do it with other guys, but if you decide to try to make the conversation serious and meaningful, expect to be rebuffed. Banter is fine, but it’s all about the game. It’s not even about winning (though that’s fun, too, and it’s important for whose who aren’t getting enough lazy, easy, fun sex with many different, enthusiastic partners). Watch young animals of any species, male of female, and see the joy and imperative of playing games. It’s how we learn, naturally and enjoyably.
  3. To make stuff. The happiest men I know (other than the few who still get a lot of lazy, easy etc. sex, or spend all day playing games) are guys that make stuff. Go into any hardware or building supply store and watch the men. They love spending time picking out and using these tools. Little boys play with blocks even before they can be brainwashed into role stereotypes. Even writers are in the construction business, using rather more finicky tools. Like the male birds described earlier that make multiple nests to attract mates, making stuff is in our DNA. It’s what we do.
  4. To move. As Bernd Heinrich explains in Why We Run, nature encourages us to move, constantly, quickly, for enjoyment, by releasing endorphins when we do. It is essential for exercise, health and survival to be able to move well. And as Heinrich explains, birds often fly for the sheer joy of moving fast, soaring, often aimlessly, even doing aerials with their talons locked with other birds. As humans, we have invented a lazier way of fulfilling this intuitive pleasure: driving. Watch a man driving or motorcycling and witness bliss. Even a guy on a riding mower is joy in motion.

blackbird2I’m sure some of you are wondering where eating and drinking and partying are on this list. I think men do these things only as poor (and less healthy) substitutes for the Big 4 above. If they could spend all their time doing the above four things, there would be no beer-bellies, no alcoholics, no fighting. In fact, guys would start spending a lot more time and attention on their health and appearance to stay attractive to the opposite sex. They’d be a lot more adept at providing sexual pleasure. And they’d be happier and easier to get along with.

Males of most species on our planet spend almost all their time engaged in these four activities, except for an hour or so a day browsing for food, which also has its pleasures. Alas, humans gave this all up for the ‘benefits’ of civilization. So maybe it’s not so bad that civilization is doomed. The humans that build the next culture might find that there’s a much better, more joyous, way to live. That is, if they study and learn from nature, instead of thinking they have all the answers.

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14 Responses to WHAT MEN REALLY WANT

  1. Chris says:

    Dave, I have to agree with most of what you said, but I am totally puzzled by your choice of pictures to accompany the text. Why did you choose to use a crow [or was that supposed to be a raven?] for the image to accompany the text for the quote from Andy Rooney? As a female that is rounding third and heading towards home on their trip to 50, I find that association odd. Crows, which in mythology are a mixed lot, are most often associated in recent times with Halloween and death. I’m not sure there is one image that would suffice for women, but I am pretty sure the put in a list, an image of a crow would end at the bottom. Chris

  2. ‘Scuse me? I’m over 50 and I am all of the wonderful things you said…blush, blush… but it took me a LOOOOONNNNGGGGG time to get here. And, what planet were you living on when you were having all that “fun” in your list of things men want? I’m speaking of #1. Sounds like planet California, to me. NO WAY anyone I hung around with was doing that. NO WAY any of the girls (now women over 50), I knew, were engaging in those activities to that level. Of course, I’m generalizing, as you did…so I’m willing to admit that maybe the group of women I hung around with were just too scared of sex and avoided it as much as possible– being told over and over by protective parents that it was a bad, bad thing. Maybe they were lying to me…but I don’t think they were. In agreement with Chris, who posted before me, what were you thinking with the crow graphic? Edgar Allan Poe is my favorite author, but… the Raven is not representative of my gender! By the way, your posts are great! This one is especially fun…provocative is good. FYI, I’m sending the word out…I need to see what the women I know NOW, think.

  3. Dave Pollard says:

    Chris/Yvonne: Thank you. OK — first on the pictures — I was trying to subtly illustrate the four male ‘wants’, in random order. The treehouse represents Making Stuff, the crow (a lovely and very intelligent bird, BTW) represents Moving, the fascinating game of Carcassonne represents Playing Games, and Eliza Dushku of the TV series Tru Calling represents…well, I guess that’s pretty obvious. None of the illustrations represent women over 50, because they are so magnificent that no illustration could possibly do them justice ;-) As for the lifestyle of the 1970s, I lived out on the West Coast in those days. Maybe it was a bit wilder than the rest of the continent. But it wasn’t just my imagination (despite Paul Simon’s famous lines in “Kodachrome”).

  4. What went wrong? I feel so cheated that the sexual attitudes of the ’70s were completely destroyed in the ’80s, and lost to everybody of my generation. The closest we come to that kind of sexual expression is the S&M fetish scene. For us boring vanilla folk, there’s not much out there. I realize that AIDS came along, but honestly I don’t think that’s it. Something profound happened to our culture – we *lost* and they (They… THEY) won. When push came to shove, they started shooting, and that brief and wonderful time ended. What brought it about in the first place? How do we bring it back?

  5. Chris: crows are some of the most social birds in the woods. They’re incredibly smart, and they’re very family minded. Brothers and sisters, old enough to be out on their own, often stick around the help with the nest for a year or two before finding a mate. They live in little family units, and gather in huge community groups for parties and to gossip. They also have a fair vocabulary and can figure out cause and effect logic problems. Sound familiar? :)

  6. Renee, you are so right! I can’t help associating the crow with Poe’s Raven, though, so I forget the social aspects of their lives. Good comeback, Chris, on the illustrations of women over 50…and so right. What an intelligent young man you are. (know that anything under 70 is young.) ;-)

  7. Kevin says:

    Dang, I was hoping I could at least say I’m “half a man”… but the only thing you mention that seems to fit me is the “moving” part, and I like to “create” things (kind of like “making” things I suppose) though I have no love for power-tools or wood blocks… it would just as soon have a brush and water-colors. Games? I suppose I like them in the rare instance I can find someone to play with who doesn’t ruin it by going all macho-competitive. My favorite sport was track because it was solitary (although social in that I wasn’t alone), every race was only a race against my fastest time. If I beat my record I won, even if I was slower than every other runner. I liked football too, but only after I made “the game” to see how hard I could hit the other guy (not which of us hit harder), rather than which team had more points.But then, I missed the 70s, and was too early for 00’s, so maybe that left me emasculated. I have been hearing a lot recently about a study saying that kids nowadays (14 and up) are “going steady” less, and instead are remaining “friends with beneftis”. I guess you can guess what the benefits are. :-OThe only thing I could really identify with is not being able to understand consevative men (or women for that matter). This undoubtedly has played a role in my lack of “manliness” as defined by a conservative OR liberal as I was raised in a moderatly conservative, Christian household, went ot a highly conservative Christian school where I was around conservative, macho, gun-totin’, huntin’ men I couldn’t relate to, and I had not liberal male role-models either (I didn’t even know I wasn’t a conservative) I guess some people would have had a sexual-identity crisis, instead I had a political-identity crisis. I still feel awkward talking about “liberal” ideas to my family – Ihaven’t officially “come-out” yet.;-)

  8. Dave says:

    From snopes.comClaim: 60 Minutes commentator Andy Rooney wrote an essay ‘In Praise of Older Women.’ Status: False. “Andy Rooney, the curmudgeonly commentator who closes every Sunday broadcast of television’s 60 Minutes news magazine with a (typically sardonic) essay about some aspect of everyday life, is

  9. natasha says:

    Regarding your opening comments about women feeling that men were basically extra children in the household, I can assure you that this is not a new thing. I grew up in a very conservative household, surrounded by the company of very conservative families. Beyond the task of going to work and doing those periodic chores that are physically demanding, as soon as these guys got home they were in need of care. Washing, feeding, cleaning up after, etc. To leave them to their own devices for a week would mean dirty everything, a junk food diet, and stuff piled everywhere. Most of them didn’t even dress themselves for church, it being understood that if they were wearing clothes that matched, their wives had generally picked them out.In short, even in households where the man considers himself the Head, their wives often end up thinking of them as especially demanding children who can nonetheless be relied on to take out the garbage. And even if they don’t say so, and probably would never say so to a stranger, I’ve watched ’em. They’re thinkin’ it.Regarding the desire to dominate, I think it follows naturally from the mindset of the rejected child. There’s the need to secure care and indulgence, but a sense of insecurity leads to the belief that someone would have to be compelled to provide it. Regarding the bird: First, is that a crow, or a raven? Ravens have an honored place in N. European mythology. The most famous example is probably the ravens of Odin, the wisest of the gods. But you’ve also got the Morrigan, a Celtic battle goddess and sometime crone, who righteously kicked ass. IIRC, ravens played a significant part in Native American mythology, but I know very little about the subject.Anyway, the theme of movement is fine enough, but it would be interpreted that way at first sight if it was next to that paragraph.

  10. Rob Paterson says:

    Dave – you have struck a chord. My sister and I intend to take this further and start up a new blog for us to play with these ideas – we are going to call it “The Third Child”More soonRob

  11. Chris says:

    Before you read this and decide I am way out of my league telling you all what to do with your blogs, keep in mind I am an Instructional Technologist, and the purpose of the discussion below is to provide you with an understanding of importance of choosing an icon to post on your blogs. An icon should be an image that amplifies the proximal text so as to enhance what the author is trying to communicate. Therefore, it is important that the icon IMMEDIATELY personifies the text that is it closest to. Why the crow image doesn

  12. Kai Jones says:

    I *really* enjoyed this, and (although I am a woman, and not yet 50), I endorse all of it. Except calling men children. Not all of them are, not even all of the ones that have dominant wives. I’m dominant in my marriage, but that’s because we are practicing that time-honored tactic of division of labor. But instead of dividing along historical sex role lines, we’ve assessed each other’s skills and weaknesses and divided the labor of our marriage by who likes to to what and is good at it. I’m in charge (of the money and most major decisions–I bought our latest car and my husband didn’t even see it until we signed the papers) because I’m good at it; my husband does the dishes and laundry because he’s good at those. Neither of us does yard work: we hire it out, since we both hate it. As far as sexual play–swinging is still like that. Hard (but not impossible) for single guyes to get into, true.

  13. kara says:

    Men need Women more than Women need Men. I predict this as a future trend – if men don’t start paying attention.

  14. Marijo says:

    After reading this, I had to go and ask my husband about a lecture he atended a while back, because that speaker also attributed four basic desires to men, and I could only rmember three of them (bad wife!). Anyway, his four were: fornication, food, finances and fun. The premise of the lecture was that all women want different things, so if you’re trying to please a woman, you have to get her to make a list of the specific things that she wants. But all men want the same things, so there’s no mystery to pleasing a man.The horrible thing is that I can’t figure out what is supposed to be on my list, although I tend to stay pleased with my husband. I guess he knows my list better than I do by now.

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