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November 05, 2003

Straight Boys, Gay Tastes

Dear Friedrich --

I've been wondering for some time about how today's straight young guys make any sense of anything. On the one hand, pop fashions and pop culture push brain-rattlingly enticing, aggressive and confident images of femininity at them, while on the other hand styles and tastes in what's desirable in a young man have become gay to the max. The pop images of bustin'-out gals are everywhere -- which is probably blissful, yet also unsatisfying and even terrifying. But how well do contempo (ie., gay) images of how his own life and person should appear suit a straight young man? And, under siege from both sides, what becomes of a young man's masculinity?

My own masculinity, such as it is, wouldn't have a clue what to do with itself or where to turn if I were a present-day young guy. Would yours? The gals would be terrifying -- all that brassy desirability, all that cyber-confidence, all that ... bossiness and impatience. Who could live up to it? As for the style and advice world: Hey, I'm not gay! Not me, no sirree. Steve Sailer, here, has shrewdly ventured the thought that the hyper-slobbiness some young guys affect these days -- think Brad Pitt -- is a way of stating firmly that they aren't gay. I'd guess that the cartoonish masculinity peddled by the rap world serves the same function.

As for evidence that this is indeed the state of things ... Well, pumpy and shiney images of bustin'-out girls aren't exactly hard to turn up. The gay thing? ... Sigh. Either your gaydar's giving you a reading or it isn't. Either you look at ads, TV and fashions and you say, "Wow, that whole gestalt used to be thought of as gay!" or you don't. There are always some skeptics and doubters, and I'm too lazy to rustle up sufficient evidence to make my case a lock. So the posting languished.

Today's Dan Savage column solves the gay-evidence problem for me. Here's a passage from it. Dan -- very bright, very gay -- is explaining to a reader why some young men have taken to shaving off their body hair:

Meanwhile, male homosexuals were taking over American cultural life. That gay men now dominate our culture is not some paranoid Christian conservative's fantasy, PUBIC, but a fact of life. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy confirmed something everyone already knew: Outside of rap and hip-hop culture, stylish gay men—not all gay men, mind you, just the stylish ones—are the real tastemakers. And gay men weren't content setting tastes in jackets and hair products and cowhide-accent chairs. Hardly. We were, however subtly, setting sexual tastes as well. Out went the virile man (So long, Burt Reynolds!) and in came the vulnerable boy (Hello, Ashton Kutcher!). Soon the kind of guys most gay men want to fuck became the kind of guys most straight women want to fuck, the male beauty ideal every bit as hairless as its female counterpart.

Case made for me. Dan's column can be read here.

So I was fascinated the other day when The Wife and I saw a downtown performance-art thing whose main idea was that what's repressed and shame-ridden in today's young men isn't what art has led us to expect: lust, murder, rage. Instead, it's fear. Shyness. Lack of energy. Even impotence. The evening suggested that today's young guys aren't bursting with Simpson/Bruckheimer, go-go-go aggression and craziness, much as they'd like their buds to think they are. Instead -- ultimate sin in today's hyper-dynamic world -- they want a moment or two of peace, and they also wouldn't mind a little sympathy.

Finally, I guess, the final taboo can be given voice: "Honey, you know, in the midst of all this hyper-pumpy and confusing everything, I just don't feel up for it. Would it be OK if we took a nap instead?"

I wonder if the creator of the evening we saw is on to anything genuine. Curious to hear your hunches about this. Curious as well to hear observations, insights, etc., from visitors.



posted by Michael at November 5, 2003


"That gay men now dominate our culture is not some paranoid Christian conservative's fantasy, PUBIC, but a fact of life."

Sounds to me as if Savage has something to sell. I guess the obvious response to him would be "Ok, prove it. Who's on the list?"

Posted by: David Sucher on November 5, 2003 5:29 PM

Just's young men do seem almost deer-in-headlights-frozen-in-place. Professionally as well as personally, actually. Either that, or they've adopted a polished, promising-young-man routine which also seems to have no room at all for a genuine relationship with a woman (I don't mean "casual"...I mean genuine). Of course, there may be nothing "genuine" about it all. It is possible, the more I think about it, that your point that all the "self esteem training" given to young women has actually worked, while our boys got neglected.

BUT...I don't let our young men entirely off the hook for this. I have a niece and a second cousin, both female, one is 17 and a senior in highschool, one is 18 and a freshman in college. Both are cute, smart, fun girls. Both have had teenage admirers. Their conclusion? They've pretty much "sworn off boys" because "boyfriends take up too much time and they just aren't worth it." As one of them succinctly said "You have to go to their games, they don't come to yours, and it's just no fun." One is busy majoring in physical therapy, the other wants communications. They've got plans. If you aren't helping, they aren't going to slow down for you.

See, I don't think girls are going to revert to yesteryear. I think the boys need to pull themselves together a bit and actually do some of what was historically the female preoccupation: figure out how to make themselves attractive to and keep up with today's girls. Hint: that you-have-to-go-to-his-games-and-he-never-comes-to-yours thing ain't a good idea.
Looking for sympathy? Maybe they need to stop affecting a a faux-I-don't-care-about-anything routine and earn it a little. There's a C & W song about a guy who is regreting losing a woman, and talking about her new love. He says that the new love actually remembers her birthday and calls when he says he will and tells her he loves her. The singer then wryly says "Why didn't I think of that?" Professionally, romantically, in any way---today's boys need to think a little.

Posted by: annette on November 5, 2003 7:48 PM

Many women have always longed to find a straight guy with some "gay" characteristics - taste, neatness, sensitivity - thus the customary single woman's lament: "All the good ones are either married or gay."

Posted by: Lynn S on November 5, 2003 7:49 PM

With respect to gays and fashion, this is much ado about very little. Style-makers have always been gay, or at least peculiar. Think Pope Julius and Michelanglo.

With respect to roles and expectations of young women, there is much to be said. One could argue that the liberation/exaltation of women is the single most unsettling thing America has done to the world. It troubles our young men, but it drives young Muslims bonkers.

Posted by: Alan Sullivan on November 5, 2003 9:01 PM

Just to clarify, if Savage had said "fashion" I would agree with him. But to extend the domination to "culture" at large is not obvious and suggests an inventory to justify such an absurdly broad statement.

Posted by: David Sucher on November 5, 2003 9:15 PM

I say it's gay culture's revenge for our trashing disco with no style at all.

Posted by: Alan Kellogg on November 5, 2003 10:05 PM

Or could it just be that Dandyism, in all it's plucked peacock glory, has returned. When there is enough money to go around and women are a prize to be competed and won (Professional gals with good jobs, connections....better then a dowry!) Why wouldn't professional, middle-to-upper-middle class men start mock gentlementry? Preening, fussing, all with a wry smile on how unmasculine it is (Although it seems a very tire-some Anglo-Saxon trait...why wouldn't you want yourself to be handsome to trap more gals? What is morally wrong in wanting your life to be pleasurable...visually or otherwise? Italian men have been getting away with this for years, The vanity in Classical Greecian poetry is astonding (what do I care? I am beautiful) and the old-style dandyism in black men in New York is astondinly feminine .)

At least we don't have to deal with men in ribbons and high-heels. Some people deserve to have thier heads cut off.


Posted by: jleavitt on November 5, 2003 10:29 PM

Well, two different things, it seems to me. On the one hand, the product being sold (and the culture we're moving around in) and on the other, the people actually producing the product.

First example: the theater. It's always been heavily gay, and it's always depended heavily on strong female stars. None of that has changed. But once upon a time the theater made an effort to appeal to straight men (along with everyone else) on their own terms. There were sexy dancing girls, plots about guy things, suave, plausibly-straight (whether or not in fact) leading men.

What's changed is that these days the theater is much more frank about being gay-male and female, and that these days the product it sells is a much more straightforwardly gay-male and female product. Nobody's bothering much any longer to appeal to straight guys on their own terms. Where there was once a fair amount of theater a straight guy could relate to, there's far less of it these days. The theater, as a culture biz, makes little effort to appeal to straight guys at all. And in fact you don't see too many straight guys (let alone young straight guys) attending the theater now.

Project that out to the larger culture (magazines, TV, ads, etc): on the one hand, tons of images of dynamic girls, and on the other hand stuff whose appeal (even if slighty disguised) is basically gay-male: hairless chests, six-pack abs, post-camp design ... The fashion and ad and design worlds, by the way, consider it to be quite a coup that they've made young men as anxious about their skin, their figures and their body hair as women have often been. Matters of male beauty aren't traditionally straight-male concerns -- they're gay-guy concerns. In other words, young straight guys have had gay-male concerns and anxieties imposed on (or sold to) them.

So where's a young straight guy to look for images he can relate to comfortably or for plausible role models? I'm just trying to wonder what it must be like for a straight young guy to be looking around the culture he's growing up into -- confusing, for one thing. You'd probably have to learn to protect yourself -- the girls are too hard-hitting, and the design-stuff is too ... well, gay. Eek: where's a place for me, Mr. Straight Clod, and my Straight-Clod Soul?

I also imagine straight young men are withdrawing ever further from cultural matters, and probably ever further back into solid, secure guy-stuff like videogames and sports. I think the hyper-slobby thing that Steve Sailer noticed and the cartoonish rapper masculinity we all see are compensatory: guys who don't really know how to be guys are inventing it for themselves and coming up with ludicrously overblown images for themselves to act out.

As for Topic #2, the composition of the culture biz, and gays and women and straight guys and culture ... I can only speak for the biz I followed. But straight guys on the editorial (as opposed to business) side of book publishing are pretty thin on the ground now. People generally guesstimate that 70% of the people in editorial are female, and that most of the guys are gay. I once brought this up to one of the few straight guys I knew in the biz, and he laughed and said, "Yeah, thanks for reminding me what a pussy business I work in."

But anyway, what I'm really thinking about is what it must be like to be 18 or so, straight and male. Your buttons get pushed relentlessly by sexed-up imagery; your nervous system gets rattled constantly by videogames and pop music; ads make you anxious about your looks and abs in ways guys have never had to be anxious before ... You're being poked, prodded, rattled -- and then tied up in knots. Can't be an easy position to be in. So I'm assuming that a fair number of young guys are finding that their spirits are simply withdrawing from the battlefield, which they probably experience as a no-win venue. If you're young and dumb enough, you probably figure for a few years that you can power your way through it all. Once the oomph starts to recede a bit, though, what's left?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on November 5, 2003 11:19 PM

What's changed is that these days the theater is much more frank about being gay-male and female, and that these days the product it sells is a much more straightforwardly gay-male and female product.... Where there was once a fair amount of theater a straight guy could relate to, there's far less of it these days.

So said theater critics in 1959.

Posted by: Tim Hulsey on November 6, 2003 1:42 AM

Being a young male, I think what you say is pretty much accurate. Most males today are not "men." When I think about virtually every one of my male friends, I find it hard to see any of them ever changing significantly -- stuck in some sort of perpetual boyhood.

In general, I have a high degree of bitterness about Feminist/Racist/Queer Activism, not only because I find them absurd because of the lack of intellectual rigor (it's amazing to me that the numerous unfalsifiable theories with little to no predictive value could ever taken seriously), but because I think they have been personally damaging not only to myself, but to countless other people of my generation, and some generations before, and many generations after.

Of course, it's extremely difficult to demonstrate a high degree of causality in a social sense, and I think economic and technological factors are probably the largest influence... but having a bunch of myopic "intellectuals" with selfish agendas plucking at their pet strings in the extraordinarily complex social network and ignoring/misinterpreting the way those changes propagate throughout the entire system certainly hasn't helped.

One of the more important ones, at least in my estimation, is a change in Male-Female relationships. From my experience, for all the pontificating about how women want "sensitive" guys or "bad boys," those generalizations aren't that useful. I do think it is significant, however, that if you ask a girl/woman about what they want the person they marry to be like, usually the first characteristic you'll get is "funny." Maybe I'm ignorant, but I don't think you would've gotten that same response at any time in history except within the past 20 years. I could just be making too much out of general lack of understanding in people's own goals and desires for themselves, though.

Another significant issue is how we culturally perceive "weakness" in men. In part this is a result of Feminist/Racist/Queer activism because of their dogmatic insistence on oversimplifying social dynamics to a morality play of white male oppressor and minority victim, so that it becomes ingrained in us not to think of white men as anything but oppressors. But there's an internal issue to the idea of it not being "manly" to speak out about ways in which boys/men are being harmed. I have absolutely no idea what to do with that though. I'm not interested in being a victim-activist, but I'm similarly not interested in letting belligerent political activist groups to continue to stomp on the face of mankind (in the sense of men and general humanity) to further themselves.

There so many way to look at the entire thing that I won't even pretend to be able to address them all here.

Posted by: . on November 6, 2003 3:39 AM

What's happening to young straight guys is they are looking to adopt victim-culture camouflage to get laid, still the main preoccupation du jour.

Many white kids have adopted hip-hop styles (except the one that really counts, being black), hence the huge popularity of Marshal Mathers. This may also have to do with being able to assert unbridled macho while being politically correct. Comic commentary on PC, really, astutely riffed on by Warren Beatty in his politician rap in Bulworth.

Many others have gone back to early-70s style androgyny chic as epitomised in GQ, a magazine I no longer feel comfortable buying in my lumpen hetero way. I note with interest the merging images of fashion and porn in today's style mags. This, too, is a more or less overt penetration by disguised macho culture in search of a home.

Posted by: Dave F on November 6, 2003 7:24 AM

To ".": "I do think it is significant, however, that if you ask a girl/woman about what they want the person they marry to be like, usually the first characteristic you'll get is "funny." Maybe I'm ignorant, but I don't think you would've gotten that same response at any time in history except within the past 20 years."

Mmmmm...I think "funny" was always way up there. Are you referring to the fact that you think women used to look more at something like "earning potential"? First of all, I think some still do, but mostly, times have in fact changed. Men can't just be enotionally remote, watch football, and sorta have it all their way as long as they bring home the bacon the way my father did. That's the point. It's like a pretty girl being told she has to work on her personality. The guy who can make money still needs to work on his personality. My response to that, if that seems unfair? Grow up.

MB---"You'd probably have to learn to protect yourself -- the girls are too hard-hitting, and the design-stuff is too ... well, gay." This seems laden with a value judgement I just don't get. What does the "too..." mean in this? The girls are too hard hitting for a man who grew up with more passive girls to get comfortable with? Why say the girls are too hard-hitting? Why not say guys are too wed to antiquated stereotypical roles? This is my point, the world has changed, and guys seem to be trying to cling to yesterday. You guys are the evo-bio guys: today's guys are going to have to change to adapt. I remember a line once when someone said---that's the difference in how I feel about so-and-so and how you do. You're afraid of what she might do next, but I can't wait to find out.

Posted by: annette on November 6, 2003 7:24 AM

"." is dead-on. Of course, his comments will most likely be attacked and mocked - it's happened already here. This statement also says a lot: "They've pretty much 'sworn off boys' because 'boyfriends take up too much time and they just aren't worth it.'" It'd be fun to hear those girls' comments a decade from now.

What will happen is (straight) boys will pretty much stay underground, put up with the "white male oppressor" / "male oppressor" tag, and get on with their day. Theater will become primarily supported by the government, because it has become all about the "gay experience." It began heading that way big-time with "Angels in America" and has kept on going down since. Eventually guys will be able to counter the gaying of America without being labeled a homophobe. (Right now, just saying "not for me" gets howler-monkey condemnations of homophobia. At a gathering lately, "Will and Grace" came on, and when they discovered I wasn't a fan of the show, the first words out of someone's mouth were, of course, "what, are you a homophobe?" The reply, "no, I just don't find the show funny" was met with "tsk, tsk." Oh, well. A lot of women don't find Monty Python funny, but I don't think snarking, "what are you, a pythonphobe?" is necessary. There is cause for hope, though. When the term "metrosexual" was discussed recently in the group, most rolled their eyes at the concept.)

Some savvy marketers and media/content producers will notice there's an untapped market of young men who are masculine (and straight), who are comfortable with it, and will start creating product aimed at them, other than action movies and sports. I think we will see a resurgence of the "guy novel" to some extent, though spy and action novels still climb the bestseller lists. (I think the theater is lost for the foreseeable future, though.) We'll get meatier music than the current teenage loser/lord-of-the-flies rap crap. Things will surface in the arts and everywhere.

It will be the flip-side, the answer to, this statement of ".'s": "I'm not interested in being a victim-activist, but I'm similarly not interested in letting belligerent political activist groups to continue to stomp on the face of mankind (in the sense of men and general humanity) to further themselves." There will be a subtle, quiet push-back for true equality and fairness. I just hope "." and his buddies can take the attacks they will encounter in stride, and see them for the shadows they are.

Posted by: Yahmdallah on November 6, 2003 11:16 AM

Tim -- 25 years ago, flat-out gay themes and flat-out gay styles and approaches were still the exception in the mainstream theater. These days they're pretty much the norm, or at least a pretty significant part of the norm. I like camp humor, for instance. 25 years ago, to get the occasional blast of it, I was seeing plays in off-off-Bway basements; these days "Hairspray" is a big Bway hit. Interesting development, no?

It's a development that's been paralleled or accompanied by a reduction in straight-male interest in the theater. Also an interesting phenom, no? I suppose it's debatable whether or not there's a connection between the two phenomena (I think there is, but am certainly open to the possibility there isn't). But the two phenomena are pretty widely accepted to be simple fact.

If there is a connection, it raises what's to me an interesting question/predicament/whatever. Theater-gays are out of the closet and doing what they like, and doing it on their own terms! Yay to that. What if, though, part of what this has meant in simple business terms is that the theater world's appeal has narrowed? What if the theater has become even more than it used to be a matter of gays and gals putting on shows for other gays and gals? This might be fine; it might also be a business problem. Er, challenge. After all, no one has to go to the theater. And if Person X sees nothing there that might appeal to him, why go to the effort and expense? I have no particular opinion about whether any of this is good or bad, by the way; I'm just observing and trying to make a little sense.

Annette -- I'm not sure that hoping for some sympathy and patience from a potential companion is a male thing, I think it's a human thing, don't you? If a guy looks at a potential gal companion and sees only bustin'-out self-assertion and hurrying-somewhere careerizing, isn't he in the same (rather woebegone) position as a gal who looks at a potential guy companion and sees nothing but a sports fanatic who exhausts himself on the job -- someone who has "no time for her and her needs"? And my suspicion is that what we're seeing in our New Young Guys is the straight-guy adaptation to new conditions. On the one hand, being rather unformed, larval and sheepish about being guys; on the other, the acting-out of a cartoon version of masculinity -- bouncing back and forth between the two. Maybe this is how guys have adapated to this new world. In doing so, my impression is that they seem to have lost the knack of simply being straight males. It's become (to use that awful academic-radical word) "problematized." Whether this is a good or a bad thing, beats me. Kind of an interesting one, though.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on November 6, 2003 11:24 AM

I think Yahmdallah raises a necessary point, which is that despite it all people are going to get on with their lives, and that (as always) many will do so in fairly sensible ways. It'll be interesting to see how the arts and the media evolve, no?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on November 6, 2003 11:33 AM

First, 18-year olds, let alone 18-year old males are all crazy. If they are white Americans, anyway.

Second, as long as we're in the land of bio-evo, does this story about fish-farting suggest that the South Park humor of young men is just trying to keep the group together?

Posted by: j.c. on November 6, 2003 12:07 PM

I'm really not happy about this hairless guy look catching on with straight females. I just don't have the time or desire to wax my back, chest, etc.! Think straight chicks could be coached into digging the "bear" look?

Posted by: dude on November 6, 2003 1:00 PM

Oh, please, I'm sorry, but this is all so....silly. Look, as one of "today's women" let me tell you, I just don't get what all the breast-beating is about here. Women have learned to deal with the constant pressure of the images pushed on us by the you really think men won't learn to deal with it too? Give yourselves a little more credit. Maybe there is some initial confusion, but straight guys will still get plenty of attention, at least from straight women (I can assure you of that!)

Straight white guys once had virtually the whole culture to themselves. Now they have to share with women/gays/other ethnicities. Sure it's more complicated--that doesn't make it worse. It makes it richer, in my view. And why must a person's gayness/straightness take such center stage in *who they are*? It's important if you want to reproduce with them, I suppose, but it is not the most important thing about a person. Is it impossible for a straight man to see a gay man (or a woman for that matter) as a role model without thereby becoming gay/female himself? No.

My husband, for example, has told me repeatedly that he delights in my independence, my "brassiness" as you call it. And he certainly isn't any less masculine, in my view, nor is his masculinity "threatened" by my assertiveness. He found his role models in people who did great things--musicians, scientists, etc--not because they were so "masculine" but because they were intelligent, dedicated individuals.

Posted by: emjaybee on November 6, 2003 1:04 PM

I think I'm someplace between Michael and emjaybee. I certainly understand if today's males feel that they are being treated badly by today's females why they wouldn't be enamored of that. But being treated badly, and simply not being lionized over like yesterday (I mean---why don't they go to the girls' games?---no one's addressed that), are two different things. Not quite sure which it is.

I do think emjaybee's got a point---there does seem to be a certain self-pity (the MEDIA isn't reflecting back on me the way I want!) that is not a legit complaint from men. If they honestly feel that women are "running over them"---then that IS a legit point. I'm not sure which it really is. But being "larval like" is not "women's" fault or the "media's" fault---that is a personal choice.

Posted by: annette on November 6, 2003 2:25 PM

Hey, I'm not complaining about it, just taking note of it! I suppose I'm complaining about having to deal with a lot of clueless and flailing young guys, but that's of no significance. And I feel for them a bit, possibly because they're paying for sins they never committed. But such is life, eh?...


M. (I don't judge, I just report) Blowhard

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on November 6, 2003 3:26 PM

Sorry MIchael...any scorn was not for you , but for a hypothetical young guy wringing his hands and whining "but girls are so STRONG! How will I know I am a man?" which is probably not the picture you meant to paint.

Posted by: emjaybee on November 6, 2003 3:35 PM

MB wrote: "Your buttons get pushed relentlessly by sexed-up imagery; your nervous system gets rattled constantly by videogames and pop music; ads make you anxious about your looks and abs in ways guys have never had to be anxious before ... You're being poked, prodded, rattled -- and then tied up in knots." Um, Michael? Women have been dealing with this bombardment since the Dawn of Media, if not the dawn of civilization itself. Really: read that quote as if it had been written about women. Rings pretty true, no?

But women (and now, if what you're saying is correct, straight men) have also always had the option of rejecting the demands of the culture-at-large. Personally, sometimes I buy in, sometimes I opt out. I have had to justify wearing eyeglasses instead of contacts; I have had to justify not using condiments in my hair; but also I have sheepishly hidden my legs from view whenever I've skipped a day or two of shaving.

I just remembered an occasion when a drunken swarthy mustachioed fifty-something man (I was then in my early 20s) said to me, in all seriousness, "if you got contacts and got your hair done, you'd be one foxy mama."

Um, thanks. Jackass. I'll call you when that happens.

Ultimately I think my views are about the same as annette's: no, it wouldn't be right if yet another group of people is made to feel worthless or unattractive or otherwise subpar; but it certainly isn't the first time it's happened, and it certainly isn't worth all the whining and hubbub.

If I love a guy, I don't care what hair he shaves, if any. And if he loves me, I would think he'd feel the same way.

Posted by: Dente on November 6, 2003 3:44 PM

"Um, thanks. Jackass. I'll call you when that happens." What a great line! You coulda said---if you stop being swarthy and fifty...gee, you still wouldn't be foxy! Too bad! I mean---being "foxy" in HIS eyes...your life's goal, right?

Posted by: annette on November 6, 2003 3:51 PM

The steroided-up shaved-chest look comes out of several sources -- the gay, the Italian, and the trailer park/muscleman.

Posted by: Steve Sailer on November 6, 2003 3:52 PM

Dente -- I don't think we disagree on the main point, although we may on a further point. I think that women being preoccupied by their physical appearance, or gay men being preoccupied by their physical appearance, makes a lot of biological sense -- whether this is fair or not, they're stuck with the role of trying to attract mates and companionship via physical desirability. I do think it's an odd thing that straight guys are now playing the preoccupied-with-their-appearance game too. Why? Because at least with women and gay guys playing this game might lead to something that's genuinely desired -- a mate, a companion, sex, marriage, whatever. But what's a preoccupation with his appearance going to lead to for a straight guy? In most cases, not much. So it becomes an attitude and a mindset that really has no point -- ie, nothing but a burden. It's a self-consciousness that serves no one but the people purveying the shirts, the cologne, the styles.

But I'm not losing any sleep over it. As Annette and others have said, it's up to the individual guy how to choose to deal with it. Interesting to watch how the young guys respond to the new conditions, though...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on November 6, 2003 4:00 PM

Michael, I think you're absolutely right about the beneficiaries being the purveyors of products. I get frustrated with the endless marketing, coming at us from all sides, rapid-fire like those Japanese cartoons that were giving kids seizures (remember those?) - and sometimes I wonder what would remain of our culture if all the marketing were subtracted. If it were just about art & thought & even mindless entertainment just for the fun of it, wouldn't we be much happier and a lot less stressed out? And if that's true, then why don't we make it happen?

Posted by: Dente on November 6, 2003 4:35 PM

Y'all are forgetting the biggest media market out there. Beat movies and television by doubledigits percentage points in profit last year. Almost 99% male. What is this last, great bastion of masculinity?!

Hey, it's video games!

We have the hentai anime, the fps, the platformers, the driving games, the sims (and yes, the Sims, but that's not quite what I meant), the sports games, the strategy games, the role-playing games, the puzzle games - basically, something for every young man.

I live with a freelance video game critic (yes, there are such people, and yes, it's a serious job, and yes, he makes a living doing it, and no, it's not all games). He's been on the press list for every major company and almost all the minor ones for the last decade. He's got about a decade's worth of games and systems stored around the house. Let me tell you - these are not just Tetris anymore. These games take, variously: skill, concentration, decision-making skills, excellent reflexes, 3-D visualization skills (which is why I suspect the industry is almost all male), the ability to multitask, an excellent memory, and yes, guts.

Yes, these games can be violent and bloody. But, that's not the norm. These games are rated voluntarily by the developers, and all the store employees that I know refuse to sell Teen or Mature rated games to minors - the employees are well aware that they can be prosecuted for these offenses. However, they cannot refuse to sell a game to a parent who expressly buys violent videogames for their child, and this happens every day.

Often, these games seem as a relief valve for stifled impulses, a way to let off some tension - even if it's just playing a crazy taxi driver.

Posted by: Courtney on November 6, 2003 8:37 PM

And we all know how many crazy taxi drivers got their start this way.:)

Posted by: Alan Kellogg on November 6, 2003 11:10 PM

I am finding this whole discussion extremely funny if only because I have a 16 yo son who is waiting anxiously for his chest hair to come in. We thought he had ONE the other day but it turned out to be a dog hair. Rats.

Posted by: Deb on November 7, 2003 11:24 AM

I just don't believe all the "metrosexual" hype. Do metrosexuals even exist outside of Manhattan? I don't see any evidence of them on the streets in LA, and if the phenomenon doesn't exist in LA, where else would it exist?

Nor do I see much evidence of it in popular culture. One week from today, the biggest movie star in the world is going to be Russell Crowe, who, I can assure, you is not a metrosexual.

Posted by: Steve Sailer on November 7, 2003 6:08 PM

And women everywhere are cheering!!

Maybe young men could notice that...

Posted by: annette on November 7, 2003 7:33 PM

Michael wrote:
"But what's a preoccupation with his appearance going to lead to for a straight guy? In most cases, not much."

You could not be more wrong about that! Perhaps the evo-bio paradigm has changed. If women have more resources and independence, perhaps men feel a little evolutionary pressure to look good for them, no? I mean, males of many species adorn themselves to attract females.

When women were prevented from supporting themselves, then all that really mattered was a man who could ensure their survival. Now that that has changed, women can be more picky, no? And ask that a man at least groom a little more often?

I know many women who prefer men who do *not* need someone to buy their clothes, put together their outfits, and drag them kicking and screaming to the barber once a month. We have work to do, we don't have time to be men's mommies anymore. If they want our attention, they need to make a little effort.

Posted by: emjaybee on November 10, 2003 9:46 AM

Argh! As though all gay men were like the Fab 5! Andrew Sullivan doesn't seem to have a search function or I'd point to his post on bear culture (mentioned by a commenter up above) -- and the most common line in gay personals has to be "straight-acting."

Metrosexuality is about the Playboy lifestyle -- suave, interior-decorated, brand-named. I find Steve Sailer's intuition about prolonged sloppiness and adolesence especially useful for understanding why my students (male and female) dress SOOOO badly for class but clean up relatively nicely.

Posted by: Michael Tinkler on November 16, 2003 10:12 AM

This is not my type of subject matter. Normally I avoid these topics; however, since I am starting to be a regular here (and there aren’t any interesting blogs going on right now) I figured I would make comments anyway. Besides, like many of the blogs at this sight, it starts out as one thing and almost always comes back to being a battle of the sexes, ie men, women, and other.

I think men and women are a lot busier than they were even just 20 years ago. Everything is so important. Everyone has their own interests at heart, everything is so complicated. Additionally, so many things are now competing for their time including video games, books and movies (although just by saying books in many ways I may be an optimist.) and there are those constant worries of the environment and war constantly on the backs of many people’s minds. I think it is great that Annette’s nieces have sworn off boys. Teen pregnancy is not a worry then. Chances are they will have set and accomplished important goals before they want to settle down. Why would you want them to get distracted in a relationship now?

As far as “If you aren’t helping, they aren’t going to slow down for you.” There are plenty of men and women who have been in relationships where they were taken advantage of. I know of one man who worked 60 and 70 hour work weeks for years to put his wife through medical school. When she completed the schooling (and it was his turn to go to school) she ran off with a doctor. All he was left was behind. And she ended up with the better attorney….

As far as “many women longed to find a straight guy with some “gay” characteristics –“
Such generalizations are exactly why these blogs get started in the first place. IMHO, whether by choice or accident, gender roles are being blurred. It probably all started in WWII with Rosie the Riveter, or since there is allegedly an overwhelming majority of “gay” men running Hollywood and in other media we are subjected to an even further blurring of the gender lines. What I would propose is specifically indicating the desired qualities of the individual she is looking for. Otherwise Lynn’s friend will end up with some kind of bisexual male or something, which may not be what she wants..…

The quality of a relationship is determined by the quality of the relationship. The person’s roles have started to be dictated by the relationship they are in. But isn’t that the way the relationships evolve anyway? In the past you would be the talk of the neighbor hood (I am talking like the 1950’s and 1960’s) if the Man of the house did the cooking and cleaning and the wife cut the grass and did car repair. Today, who cares? And really when it comes down to it who really cares? Some of the talk going on is much ado about nothing.

“Gay” men dominating the culture of America!?

Doubtful. I don’t watch much TV because I tend to work a lot of hours. If I am not working then I am in school. I wear jeans, t-shirts or sweat shirts unless work demands more formal attire. I try not to have bad breath, make attempts at combing my hair, shave when I have to, and maybe catch a movie once a week. I think I just described most of the people (men and women) who are 20 to 50 years of age, probably more men then women but I think you get my point. Which is I don’t live and breath fashion. And I don’t think that many people really do either. If it is on sale, fits, is comfortable, and looks good I will buy it, and wear it. If anyone does not follow these rules, in that order, we have a different opinion on what is important in life as far as fashion goes.

Can we have some meaty blogs that if we talk about them we might be able to change lives for the better now? You know, What is the latest developments on the major issues like the environment. Erin brochovitch and Hollywood highschool type stuff. Or maybe a listing of the books you guys recently read that left a huge impression. Or if we want to stay on relationships lets get into things like what makes for better interpersonal relationships at work or school or on the web?

How can you guys go on about the gay lesbian stuff so much? I mean I find I have complete apathy on the subject. I don’t watch the tv shows centered on such relationships either. It is not my thing, and it seems to be talked about a lot here sometimes. I mean I tend to worry about myself and take care of my own affairs, over caring if someone is watching will and grace. If the gay media thing bothers you why not support the non gay media and tv shows.

The most popular blogs over the last few months have been about relationships, movie reviews, the differences of men and women, and just generally culture issues. These are the topics that get the most responses.

Posted by: shipshape on November 16, 2003 3:54 PM

Someone upthread mentioned Russell Crowe. I think his new movie ("Master and Commander") is going to have an effect on the topic we're discussing here -- he plays a British Royal Navy officer during the Napoleonic wars, and his characterization of Captain Aubrey is riveting. Okay, so the movie's a lot simpler than the books, etc., etc., but that's beside the point. Captain Aubrey's an embodiment of courage, honor, leadership, intelligence, etc., etc., and plays the violin, playing duets with his ship's surgeon. A cultured warrior -- that's something we haven't seen in the movies in ages, unless they're the villain. What are teen boys going to make of him? I'd be interested in people's thoughts.

Posted by: ANR on November 19, 2003 2:58 PM

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