[First a big shout-out to Tekanji, Lake Desire and Shrub.com for giving me the chance to guest blog! My name is Luke and I rushed this post out to press once I read jfpbookworm's great post below that I think is a good branch-off point. I warn, however, that this post is a real behemoth in length. The more I went back to it, the more I added on so you might want to pack a ham-sandwich before diving in or something. Anyways, i'd love to get your feedback, thoughts, comments, criticisms, etc.]
Weâ€™ve all seen them.
Itâ€™s some night-owl hour and in-between reruns of Roseanne and ElimiDate you see for 30 seconds the uniquely American bazaar of young, thin, often blonde women with flowing hair and large breasts: In some form, you see â€œThe Yes Girls.â€
All-too-discreetly advertising itself as none other than a phone-sex line for men where young women dressed (or undressed, for that matter) in lace and satin seductively grasp their phones, bodies supine with eyes gazed towards the camera whispering lines of â€œWe always say â€˜yesâ€™â€ like they know exactly what customers of the phone-sex line would want to hear in some meta-rape fantasy sort of way.
But phone-sex lines arenâ€™t by any means some taboo cultural anomaly servicing the closet desires of perverts or deviants. Rather, their persistent popularity speaks largely to the ways in which menâ€™s (and womenâ€™s) sexual identities are shapedâ€”letâ€™s make it â€œwarpedâ€â€”by what theyâ€™re told their fantasies are and in turn reinforced to fantasize again and again.
So placed between Roseanne, perhaps the lone television representation ever of a working-class white America with a stereotypically unattractive and wholly uncompromising woman actress at the helm who articulated a big â€œfuck off, Dan Quayleâ€ season after award-winning season and ElimiDate, the â€œreality-TVâ€ hit where petite, scantily clad women compete in a lascivious macho fantasy for the attention and affection of a man, usually tall, white, muscular and unable to hold a non-sex ridden conversation, in order to avoid getting â€œeliminatedâ€ each round, watching The Yes Girls gives us a jump-off point as to how men specifically are taught/cultured/socialized to think about women and sex. The two seemingly become synonymous if you begin to imagine what such commercials essentially say to men: â€œTheyâ€™ll do anythingâ€¦they never say noâ€¦they only wants sexâ€¦I must have herâ€¦I must have themâ€¦I must have sex.â€
Even as Iâ€™m writing this, Iâ€™m hearing about how yet another season of The Bachelor is coming to ABC. Forget that every, and I mean EVERY relationship post-Bachelor has crumbled, forget that there is hardly a gender-equality of male and female bachelors and bachelorettes (didnâ€™t ABC only make ONE The Bachelorette?) people love to see not just the paternalistic Cinderella chivalry fantasy anymore, they want to see one pimped out for the new age.
So if thatâ€™s what men are conditioned to want, to see as the ideal fantasy and to revolve their sexual and gender identities around, how do they go about achieving a constant state of sex with young women (who are often white, Latina, or mixed race)? If thatâ€™s the fantasy, then whatâ€™s the situation of the reality and what men are advised and told to do about it and how to go about it?
Based on the flurry of menâ€™s â€œhow to get womenâ€ books published largely in the past several years, you sense that what was once the immediate concern of meeting a soulmate, a wife, a husband, a life-partner has become one centered on men meeting and sleeping with as many â€œgirls,â€ â€œbitchesâ€ or â€œchicksâ€ as possible.
Like Samantha Jones drawing on the so-called liberating power of no-strings-attached sex (or â€œsex like a manâ€), the goal of â€œgetting laidâ€ then comes at a cost of women being seen as new hybrid of animal-commodity. That is, â€œanimalâ€ in the sense that these menâ€™s advice books weave an intricately bullshit guide which adheres to the beliefs that #1, the behavior of women, like animals, is by nature predictable which involves a lot (and I mean a lot of animal watching), and #2, womenâ€™s bodies are the only things valued that one must possess through the consummation of sexâ€”and I mean a lot of sex. And â€œcommodityâ€ in the sense that women, reduced simply to womenâ€™s bodies, are seen as goods that exchange hands through â€œpurchaseâ€ by way of deception, backhanded-coercion and manipulation by men under the guise of having â€œskillsâ€ with women.
Just read the titles of some of these books that have boldly emerged recently in a symbol of immediately impressive yet ultimately fleeting macho bravado based identity:
-What Really Works With Women: Do What Works, Get What Matters To You (2005)
-The Complete A**holeâ€™s Guide to Handling Chicks (2003)
-The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists (2005)
-The Layguide: How to Seduce Women More Beautiful Than You Ever Dreamed Possible No Matter What You Look Like or How Much You Make (2004)
-How To Succeed With Women (1998)
-Seduce Me! What Women Really Want (2003)
-How To Get The Women You Desire Into Bed (1992)
-The System: How To Get Laid Today! (2003)
The covers alone of many of these books tell a story in itself. On the cover of The Complete A**holeâ€™s Guide to Handling Chicks, we have the classic macho trucker/truck mud flap decal and sticker of a caricatured large-breasted woman with hair flowing in the wind.
In The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists, we see another silhouette this time of women sprawled out in sexual stripper poses while the shape of a man twice their size stands proudly drawing upon celebrations of pimps and the prostitution of women.
Perhaps most ridiculously in The System: How To Get Laid Today! is a drawing of a young woman dressed in a corset, leather thigh-highs and cat-ears on knees and elbows seductively drinking a large bowl of what appears to be milk.
Dare venture into the book descriptions and youâ€™ll find the animal-commodity storytelling continues flavored with the old â€œnuts and slutsâ€ mentality made famous during the Kobe Bryant rape trial:
â€œWeâ€™ll take you from the day youâ€™re born to the day you die and show you how women can be manipulated, frustrated, and ultimately dominated throughout the course of a manâ€™s life. By illustrating the insanity of the female mind, weâ€™ll show you why the flawed chick psyche causes them to continuously fall for the a**hole, no matter how many times they get burned.â€ â€“ From the book description of A Complete A**holeâ€™s Guide to Handling Chicks
Or you check out similar-themed websites like FastSeduction.com where you see things like:
â€œYou have to be the MAN who has all the sexual power. And when a woman (no matter how hot) sees and feels the presence of a man whom she recognizes as the dominant one while SHE isn’t, she does what every woman does – that is SURRENDERS to the more powerful being. And all that acting like she’s hot and knows she’s the stuff and all those other “head up in the air” tricks are just a test and a way to weed out all the men who are less powerful than her and don’t know their role as a MAN.â€ â€“ FastSeduction.comâ€™s â€œBe the Alpha/Dominant Maleâ€
Ultimately, these books provide a crude and patriarchal and thus attractive-to-men analysis of why, if they havenâ€™t â€œgotten any,â€ the women they want arenâ€™t attracted to them. Of course itâ€™s the same spiel thatâ€™s been revolving in pornography for year and only now seen in the forms of Eminemâ€™s celebrity and the pandemic spread of â€œpimpâ€ in the American lexicon: Women must like being treated terribly and thatâ€™s why they deserve what they get. Women must like bad-boys. Good-guys and nice-guys â€œfinishâ€ last.
To women, of course, the message then becomes that they should validate and be attracted to these images. Women must like being objectified and degraded, why else would they allow themselves to be put on a meat-rack on shows like ElimiDate? Why else would women like the delinquent Mark characters or the abusive Fischer characters on Roseanne and why else would women send love letters to convicted killers like Scott Peterson. Heâ€™s a bad-boy misunderstood with a soft-spot inside, really. Women, remember, itâ€™s your job to change him and take away the beastly exterior. Or in other words, be like Belle before he runs out of rose petals and runs out on you, right?
Read the back-pages of any so-called â€œMagazines for Menâ€ like GQ, Maxim, FHM, or Stuff and you see itâ€™s older cousins in shady black-and-white rectangle ads: â€œPheromones proven to drive women wild!…100 pick-up lines guaranteed to work with the hottest girls.â€ Listen to any recent episodes of Tom Leykis and youâ€™ll hear â€œLeykis 101â€ in which men are taught specifically how to â€œbang chicksâ€ through deception and macho posturing.
The message is clear: This is how you get that and we know this works because they instinctively respond to itâ€”itâ€™s in their DNA. Youâ€™d almost think you were learning how to catch Sockeye salmon off the Alaska coast. What lure do I use? Where do I go? When do I know to â€œgo in for the killâ€?
Head off into Amazonâ€™s â€œBestsellersâ€ or autobiography section and you find the hugely popular I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell by Tucker Max. Max, a Duke law-school grad who writes about his supposed true-life escapades, proclaims proudly
â€œMy name is Tucker Max, and I am an asshole. I get excessively drunk at inappropriate times, disregard social norms, indulge every whim, ignore the consequences of my actions, mock idiots and posers, sleep with more women than is safe or reasonable, and just generally act like a raging dickhead. But, I do contribute to humanity in one very important way: I share my adventures with the world.â€
Again, even more telling than the subject of controversy itself is often the cultural response to it. Read any of the many five-star reviews in which men and women have bought, read and proudly promote the book to others and the attitude of praise and dismissal of any criticism of such praise is unbridled:
â€œMake no mistake, Tucker Max is a vile vile person, but his own admittance. And if you try not to think to much about his victims…er…marks…er… girlfriends/hook-ups, then this is a hilarious book.â€ â€“ Jake Mckee
â€œFor the people who think that he’s some terrible person who has sex with poor innocent girls, give me a break. It takes 2 to tango as they say. As my wife put it, if there weren’t so many whores in the world he’d have a lot less to write about.â€ â€“ Travis Stroud
â€œTucker Max is pure genius. An excellent writer, and even better comedian, he has Michael Jordan’s bball skills when it comes to women, and an eclectic, highly exciting group of friends and adventures he chronicles in this absolute must-read book.â€ â€“ Michelle Park
â€œThis stuff can make you laugh until you pee your pants, but I would only recommend it for those who can take racist, sexist, and despicable jokes lightly for that seems to be the life of Tucker Max. In other words, this book is beautiful.â€ â€“ Samantha Miller
â€œI loved this book. The stories are funny and remind me of my college days. Good times, good times.â€ â€“ Jeff White
So the response then isnâ€™t that his behavior lacks repulsive qualities deserving of unflinching dismissal but rather that his life is humorous to women and men and a cause-of-envy to young men in particular. Like he says, summoning all the bad-boy machismo he can, â€œI Hope They Serve Beer In Hell.â€ He knows heâ€™s going to hell (well, assuming one believes in it) and thatâ€™s why he couldnâ€™t care less. Heâ€™s a bad-boy and a â€œrebelâ€ engaging in behavior so supposedly gutsy that it is suggestively a this-is-how-I-did-it guide as to having â€œsuccessâ€ with women. Why else would many aspiring sports-athletes read biographies and autobiographies about Michael Jordan, Brett Favre or Tiger Woods? â€œKnow the legend, be the legendâ€ as the saying goes?
But this type of macho posing behavior isnâ€™t new and Tucker Max, as much as I hate to say it, doesnâ€™t deserve all the blame. Look at what he probably grew up watching. Films like Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds, Old School, Road Trip, American Pie and National Lampoonâ€™s Van Wilder all celebrate the stereotypical prime of sexual masculinity through the oppression of women: have as much sex with as many women as possible regardless of consequences, engage in high-risk drinking and drugs without any negative repercussions, feel no emotions, display little conscience and give the middle-finger while yelling â€œfeminazi man-hating pussy faggot!â€ to anyone who says different. Itâ€™s college and thatâ€™s what youâ€™re supposed to do in college, right? Or, as the Sean Michael Scott character in Road Trip says with his famous Stifler charm â€œThink about it Josh, youâ€™re in college. The window of opportunity to drink and do drugs and take advantage of young girls is getting smaller by the day.â€
The unfiltered Virginia Slims message here is the same. To women and young girls, this says that thereâ€™s a proper way to act as women and to have fun, to have some sort of an authentic experience. Worse yet, the message is that the only thing they have going for them is their bodies and by extension, the approval from men of their bodies and the use of those bodies for sex.
But to men, the message isnâ€™t as closely examined or seen as having any sort of significance. Just as women are taught in this way to self-hate and reduce their own human being to an ass, breasts and vagina while validating so called â€œbad-boys,â€ the message to men is that this is what men do, this is what an authentic manhood looks like and this is what you wantâ€¦this is how youâ€™ll be happy. To so-called â€œnice guys,â€ the imagery leads to some dumbassed and disturbing deductions: â€œwomen like to be objectified, degraded and essentially treated like shit so even though I know something aint right, thereâ€™s no moral dilemma if Iâ€™m going to objectify, degrade and treat women like shit. Hey, at least Iâ€™m not a bad guy!â€
So itâ€™s clear then that young men are buying into these books and misogynistic attitudes in hopes of navigating the social scenes with some sense of direction in terms of women. And that I think is where a significant amount of unseen danger is. Not only does this supremely hurt women through yet again another form of menâ€™s oppression of women, but it also denies men and young boys the ability to engage responsibly, honestly and freely.
Weâ€™ve all seen this. This reinforced sexist, homophobic and racist socially constructed cultural norm to nurture men simply as emotionally, physically, and sexually abusive whose only purpose is to engage in macho high-risk behavior, see women as animal-commodities and to have misogynist meta-rape fantasies by removing feeling any sort of personal human emotion, all sorts of attachment or desire for more in things like sex or relationships.
And this, to deprive men (and women) from living real lives and identities of free-choice without inflicting pain and suffering on othersâ€¦to me nothing is more anti-male, man-hating or male-bashing than that.