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February 15, 2006

Gay in America, Straight in Russia

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Part of what I love about the web is the chance it gives us to compare impressions and ideas unchaperoned by the usual do-gooders and busybodies. Steve Sailer -- never one to avoid a dicey topic -- raises the fine old question, "Why do so many American male ballet dancers and figure skaters turn out to be gay, while Russian male ballet dancers and figure skaters so often turn out to be straight?"

Are arty and "aesthetic" activities inevitably suspect in the eyes of straight American boys? If so, why? And my own favorite question: Given how much easier it is to find eager and willing girls if you have some arty interests, why don't more straight American boys come to their senses? Are they, like, gay?

(Er, I seem to have misplaced a link. But I do recall that a study somewhere recently concluded that arty straight boys score more often than non-arty straight boys do. Has anyone else run across this report?)



posted by Michael at February 15, 2006


The husband of a friend of mine is a highschool math teacher. After the spring musical last year, he was noticing how all the girls crowded around the male lead cooing about how great he was in the play. His thought? "NOW I know who gets laid in highschool! The THEATER guys! Here I was, being a jock..." His knee is forever torn up because of highshool hockey...and he shoulda been dancing!

He then said "I could do that!" And he started warbling "Day by Day" off-key.

Posted by: annette on February 15, 2006 5:33 PM

I'm a very non-arty straight guy, and boy have I tried to venture out. But I've just failed at anything visual. The latest tactic is arty books, but those aren't the most interactive medium.

Posted by: ptm on February 15, 2006 6:36 PM

Annette -- I remember an interview with Tom Hanks. He was asked why he went into acting. "That's where the pretty and easy girls were," was more or less his answer. Smart guy!

PTM -- Who says you have to be any good at any of it? Didn't Woody Allen say 80% of success is showing up? My own little experience suggests that most gals are thrilled that you're there (in dance class, acting, drawing, yoga, whatever) and trying. Actually, being lousy but earnest is an effective way to win yourself some female sympathy ... We testosterone-addled guys tend to think we have to be good at shit before the chicks will be sweet. Not true. Thank god.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 15, 2006 6:41 PM

Don't laugh, but I was staying at my great aunt's house and the only book to read was Scott Hamilton's autobiography. (I said don't laugh, goddamit!) So I read it. (That means you, you bastard, stop laughing!)

Anyway, in there he says that he's not gay, that most of the skaters he knows aren't gay, and in fact in the early days of his career he made a point of demonstrating his small-town homophobia almost as a point of pride. (Later he got to know a few gay people and became more tolerant.)

He hypothesized that the reason male figure skaters are thought of as gay is because of their feminine mannerisms, and that they pick up these mannerisms by spending their formative years almost entirely surrounded by females. Twenty years training in a mostly female sport, 16 hours a day at the rink where there's twenty girls to every guy, and certain things begin to rub off.

If true - and he made a convincing anecdotal case - what does that say about nature/nurture I wonder?

BTW, as a kid I never thought of Scott Hamilton as gay. I thought of him as "nice".

Posted by: Brian on February 15, 2006 7:17 PM

Heh. I just found this picture of Brian Boitano.

"I bet he'd kick an ass or two; that's what Brian Boitano'd do."

Posted by: Brian on February 15, 2006 7:52 PM

I've had very different experience than you Michael.
I stopped going to dance classes after I got sick of women complaining there were no hot guys to dance with. Even the male teacher was promising to make sure there would be plenty of hot guys to dance with. Wow, thanks for insulting all the guys who decided to take classes even though they knew they would cop abuse from their friends, and look like uncoordinated morons.

Women don't care if you are competent or not if they think you are hot.

Posted by: Jon on February 15, 2006 8:35 PM

I had a friend who directed musicals. He was a little femmy, but nothing overt. Once he said, "I love musical theatre -- all the women are beautiful and all the men are gay." This comment still had an ambiguous element in it. But as it turned out, he was straight, and married one of the very pretty actresses. So he took advantage of what you are describing, and also genuinely liked all that theatre stuff.

Why more straight men don't hang out in that world to meet girls? I guess because they have no interest in it, and doing things you really don't like just to meet girls is a little bit pathetic. Or so I surmise.

Posted by: Lexington Green on February 15, 2006 9:01 PM

You could interpret the finding another way: arty straight guys hang out w/ easy girls (theater putter-outers), while jock straight guys hang out w/ teases (cheerleader princesses). My guess as to why more American straights don't make an effort to raise their level of culture is that they (correctly) know it won't score them any points. American girls emphasize height & status more than culture, whereas the opposite is true in most of Europe, your posts on Frenchwomen being a case in point, but ditto for the Russians apparently. Here culture matters if it translates into big bucks (like the lead in a play or movie). If you're short & low-status but cultured -- well, you can't polish a turd, as the aphorism has it.

Level of culture matters more in places where mating is a long-term affair -- you don't want an uncouth stooge raising your children, do you? But here mating is about as short-term as it gets, so females are more focused on genetic qualities (height, dominance, other traits that lead to high status). Some say Europe is snobbier b/c they emphasize culture so much, but it's actually more egalitarian -- far more people can improve their level of culture by willpower & effort than can improve their height or status. Christ I can't wait to be back in Barcelona!

Posted by: Agnostic on February 15, 2006 10:15 PM

That was ..very amusing, but - alas, alas - very questionable statement (argument?).

I've very little information about figure skating sexual make-up so I'll not speculate, but in dance, classical and otherwise, I can assure you the majority of male practitioners are gay. When you just said "Russian ballet" and "gay", I immediately thought of infant terrible of Russian (well, Jewish, actually) choreographers, Boris Eifman. Let me send you to the source, to a Russian gay site for more information:

"...In St. Petersburg, the eminent classical dancer Valery Mikhailovsky recently established a first-rate all-male ballet company, and the prominent choreographer Boris Eifman staged a very successful piece about the life of Tchaikovsky in his Modern Ballet Theater. [...] A shockingly revealing interview with Boris Moiseev, an openly gay popular dancer, was recently published. Moiseev spoke frankly about his sexual experiences with former Komsomol bosses"
The article expands a bit on reasons why you can hear more and more about out-of-the-closet performing arts practitioners, and name some names - revelation only to official newspaper readers, I suppose.

Posted by: Tat on February 15, 2006 10:19 PM

I've heard that getting involved in a pro-choice political action group is a great way for men to meet women. Such groups are largely female and the members really appreciate it when men participate.

Posted by: Peter on February 15, 2006 11:49 PM

I've heard that getting involved in a pro-choice political action group is a great way for men to meet women. Such groups are largely female and the members really appreciate it when men participate.

Plus they are likely to be easy & will not argue with you about birth control...

(mandatory Simpsons reference)

Kang: Abortions for all!
[crowd boos]

Very well, no abortions for anyone! [crowd boos]

Hmm... Abortions for some, miniature American flags for others! [crowd cheers and waves miniature flags]

Posted by: aldkf on February 16, 2006 3:32 AM

There are a lot of complex factors in the "intersection of gender, sexuality and culture" (sorry to sound like an academic for a second!) but one thing to consider are the economic motivations.

Straight men perceive that their romantic and reproductive success depends on future earnings power and career success (I believe that perception is correct largely). The arts are often low-paid with marginal returns, both economically and in terms of social prestige. Straight men therefore avoid the arts. Note that arts with high compensation and status levels are testosterone-laden -- think high-level Hollywood filmmaking.

I don't think that's the only explanation but it is one of them. A counterexample: heavy-metal/hard hip-hop. Economically marginal, heavily straight. But I don't think a few counterexamples negate the economic argument.

Posted by: jult52 on February 16, 2006 10:17 AM

I can't speak to the larger question directly, but I had an experience that might be part of the evidence.

In high school, all my buddies and I were in the plays for the very reason Tom Hanks claimed. And, heck, if you couldn't kiss the girls offstage, you often got to onstage. It was win-win. We had a blast. Oh, and there was the wonderful unintentional shows backstage when fast costume changes were required. And leotards were the standard clothing for rehearsing dance numbers. The joy. The rapture.

Anyway, I got to college and thought it'd be fun to be a theatre major. I even entertained thoughts of heading out to LA afterwards and trying my luck as an actor. Well, I was one of the only two or three straight guys in the whole group, and there were a lot of guys. To add insult to injury, the other obvious straight guy was one of those major good-looking guys that end up in soaps. All the moths flocked to that flame.

What finally got to me, besides the fact that spending good money in college on a degree that was worthless even towards an acting career because you get cast for many reasons other than talent or ability, was that the gay guys were insufferable with their sexual harassment. (Yes. Sexual harassment.) You'd be bending over painting scenery and when you'd stand up, behind you would be a group of 5 of them acting like construction workers, with the gestures and the leers and stuff. One would most likely lisp, "Nice ass!" atcha.

Most of that shite can be handled with a sense of humor, but then they started getting physical, actually patting your ass when they walked by. Walking up and putting an arm around you and pulling you really close to talk. Etc.

They did this to each other, too, btw. But protests of not swinging that way didn't stop them from trying to make you "one of the boys" even when you weren't.

Another surprise was the misogyny of these guys. For instance, more than once I'd say so and so was a total babe, and the immediate responses would be along the lines of: "That bitch. She couldn't act her way out of a wet paper bag." Of course, they would be all gooey to the girl's faces, but the stuff they said behind their backs was shocking (to me, anyway).

Since it occurred to me that I didn't want to earn a worthless degree, I decided I wasn't gonna put up with four years of the touchy feely stuff either. I briefly considered still trying out for and working on plays, but the thought of being felt up that whole time by guys was just more than I wanted to take on. Of course, had it been the women, I'd have chewed through Styrofoam to be involved.

And, I just have to say it, their production of "Pirates of Penzance" was hilarious, all these guys swishing around with swords. I was mildly surprised the drama coaches didn't make the guys "butch" up more for parts that required it. (Of course, the phrase "cowboy up" just doesn't have the same ring to it anymore. Har har.)

Then one of them poked another in the eye with a sword, and if you can imagine Jack from "Will and Grace" taking a sword in the eye on stage, you'd have a pretty good picture. Half of the pirates slapped their hands over their mouths and the dance number almost came to a standstill as half the pirates rushed off stage after the guy. He was fine - didn't even get a black eye. But we had a lot of shiny-eyed pirates for the rest of that show. Though one guy did a great improv to get back on stage; he swung back out on a mast line to get back to his spot. (I had a work-study job in the box-office that year, so saw all the productions.)

To be fair, though, we had a director come over from England, and they put on Shakespeare's "Midsummer Nights Dream" and didn't pull any punches, including the large phallus on the character who's turned into a donkey (don't feel like looking up the character's names). It was to date the best production of a Shakespeare play I've ever seen. And being a lit major, I saw a lot of them (on tape and such). For the record, the soap opera handsome guy was the lead, natch, and he hit it out of the park.

Posted by: Yahmdallah on February 16, 2006 11:13 AM

Uh, Michael:

Might I point out to you that America has produced two art forms that are the envy of the world: blues and country music.

These are extremely expressive, masculine art forms. In the blues, I'd bet that the proportion of men to women is 50 to 1. In country, it is probably 10 to 1.

Dance styles are associated with both of these forms.

Somehow, in post-modern New York, expressive has come to me the sort of "I don't care what I have to do to get attention" clowning and masquerading so common to gays.

The deeply masculine expressiveness of blues and country do count. I prefer them. Just because the expressive form is one that refuses to concede dignity and a concrete sense of self does not mean that it does not exist.

You don't think that the emotional storms of Elmore James are expressive enough? How about Eric Clapton? For that matter, how about Mick Jagger?

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on February 16, 2006 11:14 AM

Brian -- So true, but interesting to note that Boitano is surrounded by women, no?

Jon -- That's an interesting and good point. The lousy classes and lousy teachers can be a real misery. I've been to a few of those too.

Lex -- It's all self-reinforcing in some vicious cycle, isn't it? I mean, the more the theater world becomes about its own gal-and-gayness, the less straight guys have any reason to pay attention, or at least the less they have to relate to. But it's odd: it wasn't so long ago (1880s, 1930s) when "the theater" didn't instantly imply "nothing but gals and gays," and when it was a point of masculine honor (at least for some straight guys) to be able to date, dance, and have a little culture. When did that whole thing collapse? My own theory is that the collapse had to do with the '60s, when everything suddenly became about pleasing yourself. If you can't see yourself up there on stage or on screen, then the hell with it. People seemed to stop extending themselves and started to want to look in mirrors instead. But that's probably a pretty half-assed theory ...

Agnostic - I think you're on to a lot with those ideas. Sigh: I love America but it can be hard to avoid the occasional feeling that we're a big gang of literal-minded, clueless, materialistic rubes ...

Tatyana -- I don't doubt it. But the fact that *any* Russian male ballet dancers are straight is reason for wonder, at least in the States. I'm sure there are a few straight American high-level male ballet dancers. But I'd guess that at 90% are gay. Nearly all physically gifted straight American guys go into sports (if they make a profession out of it at all), while nearly all physically gifted American gay guys go into dance. But there's a larger phenom too, isn't there? In some other cultures -- Mediterranean, African (and, I'm under the impression anyway, Russian) -- straight guys can be and often are narcissistic, vain peacocks. They're the prima donnas; they're competing in the "beauty" sweepstakes as much as the women are. Looks very, very suspect to American boys. Here, at least among vanilla guys, it's almost as if you prove your straightness by demonstrating how clueless you are about "aesthetic" things. You don't care about art, or food, or staying in shape -- and thus you're straight. I wonder how that whole ethic developed. Not that I'm eager to go around like a peacock, of course. But still I sure like culture ....

Peter -- I hadn't heard that one. But wouldn't many of the women be ... well, political? That's a lot to have to put up with, or at least it would be for me ....

aldkf -- It's never not a propos to invoke the wisdom of The Simpsons.

JT -- Which raises another point, doesn't it? I mean, in some other cultures, women are much more prone to let themselves tumble for a guy with some arty suaveness. Why are women in America so much more fixated on the good-provider thing than other women are? Actually, are they? God knows French women can out-cutthroat American women where looking out for themselves go. And then they have affairs in order to please the woman-inside ... And interesting to note that even in the States arty guys do score more often than square guys. So at least some American women do indulge their arty appetites every now and then ...

Yahmdallah -- Not surprised to learn that you've spent a little time in the theater. It *is* a funny feeling, being one of few straight men among a lot of gay guys, isn't it? There are so many very basic assumptions the two groups just don't share -- it can come as a surprise. The kind of thing you're describing probably helps explain a lot about the state of today's theater. Funny how "liberation" seems to have led to self-segregation in many fields. Gays can be themselves! Which seems to have resulted, in one small sense, in straight guys having lost all interest in the theater.

ST -- I'm with ya on all that. Straight guys will express themselves somehow, god knows. What's funny in this country is how much straight-guy-expressiveness has taken the kinds of forms you talk about rather than more Euro forms. (Steve Sailer talks about the traditional Euro arts as "aristocratic," and I think he's onto something with that.) I mean, country music is almost anti-"aesthetic." It's scuffed-up, down-home, rough and individual. All reasons to love it, of course. But its beauty is a rather roundabout thing, something you stumble across rather than aspire to. (Which suits me, btw.) I think that's part of what confuses Euros about country music -- they don't get its point, or how it works. Funny how the various art impulses and experiences have sifted and sorted themselves out in this country, isn't it? The thing that bugs me about it most is the degree of antagonism between the various fields and approaches. Why not enjoy country as well as ballet, or at least wish both of them well? But many people seem to identify with one team and then enjoy blasting away at the other teams. Why do the pop-cult types hate the high-cult types, and the high-cult types despise the pop-culters? Strange. I think part of what may have happened is that the old ideal of the generalist (and the gentleman, come to think of it) has dissolved. Previously, you were incomplete if you couldn't handle yourself both at a speakeasy and at a snazzier night out. You had to know how to court a woman, and you had to have read at least a few books, yet you needed to be able to get funky too. These days people seem to glom onto one team and then stand there defiantly. Seems like such a limited way to experience life, doesn't it?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 16, 2006 11:46 AM

"Why not enjoy country as well as ballet, or at least wish both of them well? But many people seem to identify with one team and then enjoy blasting away at the other teams."

Well Yeeha and Amen! We can get so damned analytical. But what's the point in endlessly describing and disassembling if it only ends up keeping us separated from the absolutely miraculous human impulse towards creativity in all its amazing diversity. It's not that I don't have my tastes, but I've really gotten to the point where I just marvel at the human experience, no matter what the form. I think I might be turning into a sentimental old fart…

I'm not a huge art fan, but I like to go to museums. I know only little of the names, the styles, techniques, or time periods. I just go and soak it all up. And I find myself attracted to things that in my younger years I wouldn't have given the time of day. The last time I went to a museum I was with a friend who is a fairly good artist and whose sensibilities are more or less modernist. She's a young, attractive, "creative type" who likes her primary colors. But as we walked through the museum I found myself stuck in an exhibit of early twentieth century Iowa painters. The style was simple, the tones muted if not bleak. The subject matter was, of course, centered on agriculture and rural landscapes. My friend said, "This is paint by numbers crap" and I said, "This is history, this is telling us something about how it felt to be alive in that time and place."

I don't think she got what I was saying. But I think this story is an illustration of what you are talking about. Age seems to have something to do with it. When I was in my twenties, I was a stubborn coot with what I now see as a very narrow idea of what was "good" creativity. At the time, I thought I was hip because my tastes were "more expansive" than the small town culture I had grown up in. But now, I look at the people and the lives that surrounded me as a child and I find amazing creativity. Down to Earth, unpretentious, making meaning out of life creativity.

Posted by: chris on February 16, 2006 1:03 PM

Professional bodybuilding presents an unusual twist on the gay/straight situation. With the occasional exception, most top bodybuilders are straight, notwithstanding the fact that they pose on stage heavily oiled while wearing costumes that amount to little more than G-strings. It is no secret, however, that a fair percentage of the audience at any bodybuilding show is comprised of gay men. The economics of the profession being what they are, some aspiring - and straight - bodybuilders make ends meet by posing nude while gay fans photograph or paint them. They don't consider this to be a gay activity as there's no physical contact.
As a Google search should reveal, there's a well-known photograph online of Arnold taken during his days as a top bodybuilder, posing in all his (very well-equipped) glory.

Posted by: Peter on February 16, 2006 2:22 PM

Don't forget that arts programs are heavily subsidized in countries such as Russia. There is a sense of national identity in the arts that is common in Europe but not so much in the US. As mentioned, we do have our art forms, such as jazz, but we don't fund them all that much. Not to say money is the only issue here.

Country music is mentioned here as a particularly masculine art form, it's "accidental" artistry perhaps what makes it so. I think visibly striving toward an aesthetic is seen as a feminine trait in the US. Men are just supposed to be effortlessly competent, sort of "no need need to thank me, ma'am" kind of thing. To be seen as trying to achieve something is a vulnerable position, one many American (and other) males are uncomfortable with. To our detriment, I would add.

Posted by: the patriarch on February 16, 2006 4:11 PM

What a fabulous thread!

Wait, did I say fabulous?

Seriously, this debate exposes a great and growing rift in American culture, one that I believe impoverishes the lives of many, especially young men.

I grew up in a small town in a very rural area, but went to a high school that prided itself on its marching band, theater productions, choral concerts and the like -- as well as its sports teams. This was not at all uncommon in the upper midwest, at least. So I, and most of my contemporaries, did a bit of everything -- played some sports, sang in the choir, acted in plays and musicals, and even (hold on to your hats) participated in choral reading in state speech contests. I wasn't at all self-conscious about it, either, even the year our choral reading team did a spoof on nursery rhymes. This was in the early 80s, BTW.

What a bummer to get to college and realize how much of the rest of the world viewed these activities. (Although it didn't keep me out of the choir.)

My old school is bigger now, having consolidated with another, and I wonder if pursuing the same range of extracurriculars would not pass the -- well, shall we call it the Pirates of Penzance Test?

My point, I guess, is that my life is much richer for having spent a few hours here and there as an adolescent singing sappy songs, trying to dance (albeit with a comprehensive lack of success), and all the while being oblivious of the, ummm, tightrope I was walking, if I'd been held up against current standards.

Posted by: mr tall on February 16, 2006 8:55 PM

I'm not saying you and Sailer wrong, Michael, on the contrary, I agree with most of what you're saying - except presenting Russia as model "straight guys in arts" country.

There are number of reasons why art ; remembecareer for men is still considered prestigious: historical and economical, mostly; but it's changing rapidly and more and more resembles American model described so vividly above. But the reasons you didn't see majority of gays in arts until relatively recently is not because straight guys took available positions, but because gays were determined to make themselves invisible. Being a homosexual was a criminal offense in Russia (for all I know, still might be). Paradjanov was sent to prison camps for being involved in "unnatural sex acts", and the horror of being accused of homosexuality was so big, even after surviving the camps he was trying to pretend he was straight.

Remember the great Soviet leader Nikita Krucshov? Here's what Wikipedia says about closing of painting Exhibition in 1962:

"In 1962, artists experienced a slight setback when Khrushchev appeared at the exhibition of the 30th anniversary of the Moscow Artist's Union at the Manege exhibition hall. Among the customary works of Socialist Realism were a few abstract works by artists such as Ernst Neizvestny and Eli Beliutin, which Khrushchev criticized as being "shit," and the artists for being "homosexuals." ". Only he didn't use the academic term, mind you - and the whole country adored him; that is except a handful of "pidors"... I'm afraid the country remains largely homophobic even now, despite all the efforts in the capitals.

Oh, and the argument about male dancers, actors, singers etc being married and having kids as proof they are straight is As if it stopped anybody from being gay; O.Wild or Paradjanov.

As to young Americans dressing and acting super mucho so as not to look gay - yeah, it borders on idiotic. I recall certain young HS student throwing downright tantrum when his mother dared to buy him a plaid shirt with 1 (one!) pink stripe in it...

Posted by: Tatyana on February 16, 2006 10:23 PM

Given the name of this website, I would think you guys would avoid the topic.


Posted by: Bob Grier on February 17, 2006 11:32 AM

Given the name of this website, I would think you guys would avoid the topic.


Posted by: Bob Grier on February 17, 2006 12:21 PM

First, I think Michael B.'s comments above on how "rough-hewn" or "uncultured" blues music is plays into some negative and unfounded (racial?) stereotypes. The blues led rather rapidly to midcentury big-band jazz, which was a very elegant, urbane, and cosmopolitan art form dominated by straight men. Was Duke Ellington gay? A blues/big-band/soul hybrid like Motown was in its own way very sophisticated, stylish, and urban while still keeping the "rough" masculine edge of the blues. Think about the elegantly costumes and unison dancing, or about the (straight) Smoky Robinson's beautiful falsetto. Same thing goes for a lot of other 60s and 70s soul come to think of it. And the 'countrypolitan' stuff out of Nashville in the 60s that was influenced by jazz, big band, and soul could be quite sophisticated as well (e.g. Ray Price or Charlie Rich).

I actually believe that there is something historically specific that has led American males, especially white American males, away from sophisticated expressions of style. I think it has something to do with a lower-class "lout" culture that we get from the British Islands. You'll notice that Scottish, Irish, British lower-class males are more suspicious of "aristocratic" culture than continental or Mediterranean men are, perhaps because of class resentments. One can combine this with the aversion to anything "gay" that has come along with the out gay rights movement.

Posted by: MQ on February 17, 2006 4:41 PM

Guys will do almost anything to meet girls, and get dates etc. They are not stupid. They avoid the arty stuff because it carries penalties.

Macho, tall, and relatively athletic guys in their youths (like say Samuel L. Jackson and the YOUNG Tom Hanks) were pretty macho. No one would think them gay so they incurred no "gay penalty" in being involved with acting (thought to be "gay") and competed on a near even level with football jocks. They also had the talent to achieve a relatively high level of accomplishment and thus look attractive.

Without that talent and height/attractiveness/macho attributes straight guys endure the "gay penalty" in dating. Women around them will pass them by assuming they are gay or bi, and go straight for the more macho appearing guys who are taller and more physically impressive.

Girls and how to meet them occupy about 98% of guys thought patterns, so they will always follow an optimal path for them to find ANY competitive edge. It does you no good to be around lots of attractive women when gain no advantage from it and incur a wider penalty by doing activities thought to be "gay." And thus incur the dating penalty.

Guys going to extremes not to appear effeminate and the ridicule associated with that label among other men has a lot more to do with the competition for girls than anything else I'd say.

Women's choices? Younger women generally tend to go for excitement and thrills, and often select guys with more exaggerated macho characteristics who are still fun to be around. Think Howie Long. The Jock with the Brain and sense of humor. Older women generally want more comfort and stability and a guy who will stick by them as they age, so tend to select on those lines. In both cases women in America having far more economic independence means they can select according to emotional needs not purely economic ones. Sort of like the guy progression from extreme sports to golf as you age.

At the heart of the matter is the competition among men to find themselves the choice for some girl; matching with girls utility curves for male attributes. If that makes any sense.

Posted by: Jim Rockford on February 17, 2006 5:12 PM

Chris -- That's a lovely essay in its own right, thanks.

Peter -- That's fascinating. Gays and straights collaborating - woo. There's a movie in it, though I'm not sure who'd want to see it ...

Patriarach -- You write, "Visibly striving toward an aesthetic is seen as a feminine trait in the US." That's a great way of putting it. I wonder where this characteristic comes from. General suspicion of Europe and everything Europe stands for?

Mr. Tall -- It all does sound so innocent, doesn't it? And there's a lot to be gotten out of such experiences. Funny how the male vs. female, and the gay vs. straight lines seem to have grown in many ways more pronounced. I thought the reverse had been promised to us...

Tatyana -- I love your bulletins! Thanks for straightening us out. Funny to hear that Paradjanov bothered to pretend to be straight. His movies are about as gay as can be, at least in aesthetic terms.

Bob -- I think we probably should avoid the question! A funny thing is that the whole dirty "blowhard" semi-pun seems to hit Brits even more than Americans. Apparently the Brits don't use the word "Blowhard" for someone who's full of himslef and his own opinions. It just means, er, blowing hard. Ooops, we didn't know that when we named ourselves...

MQ -- The Brits do seem more suspicious of aristocratic culture than the Continentals are, don't they. At the same time, hmm. A lot of Brits seem obsessed with their upper classes, and even in pop culture there were always the Bowies and the Mods, who at least liked to dress well. And such icons of style as Cary Grant came from the lower classes. So I wonder if there isn't a little more to the picture. Maybe recent developments? But which ones? I wonder if the Continentals are going to follow in our wake. I have one friend in France who says that, while they think of themselves as superior to us, they're really only 30 years behind us. I didn't say anything insulting about the blues, btw. I worship the blues. And my comment about "rough-hewn" concerned country music anyway, which I like a lot.

Jim -- I find that a very persuasive line of reasoning. And you write, "Girls and how to meet them occupy about 98% of guys thought patterns" -- that's something that ought to be acknowledged up front, in all conversations. At the same time, I still get a kick out of pondering some paradoxes. One is that arty straight guys *do* get a lot of chicks. The whole "art" thing is something a fair number of women (even in America) still find attractive. So why don't more straight guys make use of it? And if guys are going to more extremes these days not to appear gay than they used to, well, why? Is it harder these days to attract girls? Do the signals have to be that much louder than they used to have to be? No idea myself, but eager to hear surmises ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 17, 2006 7:15 PM

Michael, is it simply because perfect symmetry between the sexes has been promised us that so many strain to reassert the fact that this 'goal' is bunk?

If I recall correctly, Steve S had a post some time ago about how a minor trend toward 'metrosexualness' in urban areas in the USA might have been the motivation for millions of other men to dress like total slobs -- just to make sure there were no misunderstandings, you see!

Posted by: mr tall on February 19, 2006 8:50 PM

Michael, I think that this explains a lot about the "not wanting to be seen to be striving towards anything" angle of American culture mentioned above:

That's a link to a long piece (with many quotes) about Ortega y Gasset's "Revolt of the Masses". It says a lot about these issues.

It's the whole anti-Aristocratic thing, taken to extremes.

Oh, and I'm moving to the Bay Area this next week: hello Urban Pedestrian Friendly Living!!! (been gone from here for a while, but will probably be back more now that reading about the Arts won't depress me so much, now that I'm going back to somewhere that, uhm, has them! :-)

Posted by: David Mercer on February 21, 2006 3:44 AM

Michael -- my explanation for the arty straight guys getting lots of girls is that they suffer no "gay penalty" because they are hypermasculine guys that no one could think of as gay. If you meet those attributes (tall, muscular, obvious genetic gifts, very masculine approach) then you benefit from the closeness to girls. You're there in proximity and artiness benefits you.

Kevin Federline would be I guess the model here.

My guess about the signals is that being "louder" is required with a "hookup culture." When women are in the market for various attributes (masculine physicality, obvious genetic gifts, appearance of wealth and status) the suppliers (guys) respond. Hence the worries about the "gay penalty" and strategy of pursuing activities (football, basketball, Xtreme sports etc) that mark you as "manly" and high-status and possessed of genetic gifts (you have a hot bod).

Older women in the market for a husband of course tend to select kindness and loyalty as dominant attributes, since mere wealth and genetic gifts not only don't predict a faithful husband and father and lifelong companion but can be indicative of increased risk (of the guy fooling around elsewhere and leaving you for a younger woman).

You see this in movies appealing to young women: they end up with some high status stud in High School (16 Candles, She's All That, Into the Blue etc) or TV shows (Buffy, Felicity, Dawson's Creek). Cause young women want the High School jock not just for his bod but his social status he brings them among their social set. The girl is cool because she has a cool boyfriend.

Hollywood is very good at giving young women this fantasy.

Movies appealing to older women often have them divorced or what have you and some handsome young stud falls in love with them. Any Lifetime movie or Diane Lane's "Under the Tuscan Sun" etc. Generally the young stud who is devoted to them comes with exotic real estate that they fix up as a metaphor for self improvement and nesting. Home and Garden Television porn I guess.

Hollywood is very good at providing this sort of older woman fantasy too.

I'd guess you can tell a lot about how men and women relate to each other by watching the schlock that Hollywood puts out that actually makes money. As opposed to Oscar fests that no one watches. When it comes to appealing to innate desires of men and women to make a buck, Hollywood has been pretty consistent.

Posted by: Jim Rockford on February 24, 2006 3:38 AM

I've been reflecting on the anecdotal info that occurs to me along these lines:
* Nureyev was frankly, gracefully, a sexy gay man. * Barishnakov is a hot het, a man of muscle who cuts a swath through the ballerina supply.
* When I was a little kid, tap (more "American" than ballet, eh?) was for little girls, usually taught by a lady in tap pants and top hat in her basement.
* In the same time period, Fred Astaire was elegantly dancing with a female partner, but -- um, where would you put him sexually?
* One of the most elegant evenings at the theatre I ever spent was a road show of aged black men who tapped/soft-shoed in the most subtle, persuasive, sexy way.
* One of the most poundingly vigorous and insistently sexual dance styles around is "Riverdance," the Irish clog/tap troupe that backs up a sweaty bare-chested man with a line of babes.
* A macho Australian dance company is just coming through Montana: "Tapdogs." In your face Male.

What I get out of it is that it's not what you do, it's how you do it. An old lover's rule.

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on February 24, 2006 5:18 PM

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