Men Must Be Needed Because We Can’t Be Wanted

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About Noah Brand

Noah Brand is an Editor-at-Large at Good Men Project, and possibly also a cartoon character from the 1930s. His life, when it is written, will read better than it lived. He is usually found in Portland, Oregon, directly underneath a very nice hat.


  1. Dead on brilliant. Seems like I’ve been trying to say this exact thing in so many ways that don’t get to the point: a point which to me was blurry and undefined. I’ve known and seen many guys who seem to defy this phenomenon, but I have a feeling whenever I see it, that unless they’re some famous sexual icon of masculinity themselves, then it’s just a front.

  2. Nienke-Fleur says:

    The first thing that’d come to my mind is,
    “get a plan B”, of course, that’s easier said, than done,
    what if you just keep in mind that a woman might need you for emotional support, love, someone to talk to, someone she can trust, then being Mr. Nice-guy makes you needed, in these times – where women can provide themselves with most of the things they need – a man who wants to feel needed, should try to find the things that women still can’t do on their own: They need someone to be able to talk to, who supports them, loves them, someone they can trust, intimacy is also something you simply cannot get on your own, and although she could get sperm from a donor, I think the majority of women would rather have her children come from a man they know and care about, and if a woman works more outside of the house, she’ll have less time for things she would otherwise do, such as cooking, cleaning and parenting
    men shouldn’t try to stop women who are more independent, and should instead use it to their advantage, by using the things women still need, or by using the things women start needing if they work more outside of the house

  3. I’m not a man so I can’t speak from personal experience, but from what I’ve seen a lot of men feel this way about being needed/not wanted and it’s one of the key concerns of masculinity, that is, defining what it means to be a man.
    What I can speak to is my frustration at the lack of female gaze in film/media… we seriously need more scantily-clad hot dudes on screen! This may in part be due to the fact that the film industry – specifically directing and writing for film – is still a very male dominated field, but given how much of their viewership is female they probably should think about a few more ab-shots.
    I’ve noticed men usually don’t mind it when I oggle them… or whistle, or make pervy comments, or giggle and whisper to my friends.

  4. Sean Lawrence says:

    The article has a lot of value, but I’d disagree with its approach, which I’d qualify as more or less sociological, deploying terms borrowed from culture and media criticism, and to a lesser extent psychological, diagnosing anxieties.

    Allow me to suggest that we should look at this from a more philosophical point of view, treating the ideas of heroism or niceness as real ideas, worthy of intellectual consideration, not as mere ideology only worthy of deconstruction. Such an approach to our problems is endemic to our culture — anything we need to explain, we explain in the sorts of terms you use. The answer comes about too quickly, almost glibly, and doesn’t, I think, provide much of a model of how we go through life.

    I’d propose starting with what Paul Ricoeur said in his acceptance speech for the Kluge Prize, the so-called Nobel of Religious Studies. We inhabit our selves, he argues, by knowing what we can do, by our attestation of our capacities. (Ricoeur elsewhere links this to the capabilities approach of international development theory). “The certainty of being able to do something is private. To be sure.” Each capacity nevertheless “requires a vis-à-vis.”

    Hence the problem with men and retirement: they lose the daily affirmation of their abilities. These include their specific work-skills, of course, but also the basic capacities that orient us within the world. Even men who adopt hobbies often find them trivialized by those around them. The dream of being a hero is not only a desire for power — superpowers, in fact — but more basically for recognition of our capacities, a recognition of ourselves. In fact, status of hero seems to require recognition, unlike, say, the status of a saint.

    The frustration of men today arises, I would argue, from a lack of recognition of our capacities. When a man becomes passionate about his work, many people will assume that he’s just fulfilling the socially-mandated role of a provider, rather than recognizing that work is our very being-in-the-world, whether or not it’s paid. Even physical courage is dismissed as a sort of soulless pursuit of a socially-mandated goal. National Geographic ran an article on Arctic adventurers a few years ago, and was bombarded by letters expressing scorn for their “selfishness.” I run marathons (badly) and keep being asked why I “enjoy” them, as though they were a trivial amusement. How many men have their gyms or studies dismissed as “man caves”, as though whatever they pour their passions into merely qualifies them as neanderthals?

    In fact, I should even argue that you contribute to the problem, dismissing the capacities by which one constitutes a self as mere enslavement to arbitrary and destructive cultural forces.

    • “The frustration of men today arises, I would argue, from a lack of recognition of our capacities”.

      Good hypothesis.

      From the ‘silent types’ who weren’t talked to as kids and ended up monosyllabic to parents who don’t step in when two boys fight because ‘boys will be boys’ – the negative attributes feel like a self fulfilling prophesy from the outset.

      I often feel that the things I’m good at aren’t worth a damn and that the things I enjoy are simply narcissistic. Nobody else does it to me, it’s inside. If I tile a roof though, or bring in a boatload of cash then that’s okay. What I do best is fatherhood, talking, writing, presenting, exploring (places like the arctic and the unspoken parts of ourselves both good and bad), then inspiring – why does it feel socially acceptable to do one and not the other?

      On the whole want/need thing in the article, my mrs and me both had nutty previous partners who always said they ‘needed’ us. We made an agreement that we would always want each other, not need each other. It keeps us both motivated, independent and desirous.

      • Exactly!!!! While quite a number of men whines that they don’t feel needed, that the women don’t make them feel that way, one thing is being forgotten – the person who *needs* you wil be …well.. needy! And from what I know about people, no sane person wants to be with someone who is needy.

    • On man caves – I bet the termn in rarely used by men. And I can understand where its coming from. I live in Eastern European country where the mentality that a man can do anything and a woman can only do what doesn’t harm her family in some way (be it hobbies, career or whatever) is very much alive. And the thing is men do use their passions and hobbies to get away from whatever issues they have, which definitely makes women feel that men have some sort of an escape route (I need my space, yada yada) whereas women needing their escape route are often chastised. Add dating coaches rambling how a man needs his cave (whereas woman must always be welcoming whether he leaves for that cave or comes back from it), and we have what we have.

  5. Man, all the Internet Tough Guys are out in the comments on this one…of every gender.

  6. Too bad that this is (yet another) problem that is solely blamed on men.
    (In the beginning it says “subconscious of men”.)
    Especially since it pretends to “correctly identify the problem”.

    Women play an active and crucial part in “if you’re not needed you’re not worthy”.

  7. ‘Look at the whole concept of “women and children first” – yes it does value the life of men as something to be sacrificed for the lives of women, but not because the woman is wielding power over the man – it’s because she’s being equated WITH CHILDREN. It’s a construct of helplessness.’

    I think that’s an artificial narrative covering up a really old and once useful cultural meme. Its a strategy to keep a culture going in its most basic sense: reproduction. This is obvious on the level of the nourishment of babies all the way to the capacity for a man to father dozens of children simultaneously. A village with 1 man and a hundred women will survive. A village with 100 men and 1 woman will not. So, men are more expendable.

    And women and children are consequently more valuable when it comes to reproduction. Gender has equalized on this level too, taking the value of reproduction away from women because the earth is swarming with humans. It actually threatens a lot of the older narratives in feminism equating ‘women power’ with motherhood. This hurts fertile women too, because it takes away a sense of being ‘needed’ on a heterosexual, heteronormative and//or procreative level. Male narratives of provider and protector are very palatable with having children as well… not just protecting their partner.

    In a way this is good; we are becoming individuals without larger hetero-normative or engendered narratives to follow. Straight women and straight men in the US increasingly don’t know how to attract virile mates anymore. We don’t know what’s expected of us. While resources are abundant we can increase variability, try new things, explore different strategies for relationship equality. Swallow the self doubt and the loneliness, its the price of individuality and resource abundance.

    However, the only true, True test of any of these cultural memes will be in whether they can survive a resource crunch. If we were in a real depression would all these ‘progressive’ ideas get thrown out the window? Would they threaten the procreative virility of the new cultural norms we produce? Would other memes procreate faster or produce more children in a time when procreation was again valuable?

    It might not seem like these are the important questions, but they are. A 5% edge in reproduction when it comes to a population (even on an overpopulated planet) will lead to that group dominating the gene pool within a few generations. Its important to recognize this when thinking about what parts of our culture will survive. Its why religious cultural memes that demand sexual interactions that only produce more offspring dominate our pale blue dot. Its not that they’re morally right. Its because they’re reproducing their ideology and their followers in every sense better than the others.

    If good men and good women, including the good men and women and everyone in between, the good people in the ‘LGBT community’ (who are an integral voice in the defiance and questioning of old hetero-normative behavior) are to stand a chance of long term survival in this world, reproduction of ideas and reproduction on the literal level of genes and people has to be part of the discussion. Without it, we will all be drowned in the larger, more procreative voices of dogma.

    To be ignorant of how our ideas, cultural memes, and populations reproduce is to be ignorant of our long term individual value in the global village.

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  9. I never thought that some of you might feel that way, but know this: men are very much wanted and very much needed. A high-value male (which doesn’t necessarily mean wealthy) will always be in demand. Evolution didn’t ditch you. Come on! Trust in your own value and power. Women love men just as much as men love women.

  10. In my experience while dating men I’ve seen this quiet often. I do not need a man to pay my bills or fix my car. But if suddenly I tell him I was at the mechanic because there was something wrong I feel like I hurt him some how; “why didn’t you let me check it before spending all that money?” and I just start feeling awful; did I just emasculated him? I also notice when men are not used to getting attention from a woman. Damn I am attracted to him and I want to show it the same way he does to me; but he’ll be happy if I pretend I am in distress and he can rescue me. I do not mind a helping hand, but only if I can also help him in some ways. I also want to be able to express my desires for him, because in my eyes he looks so damn sexy for being just him.

    • Try showing him you’re attracted. Show him you desire him and find him sexy. I don’t think he’ll resent thatjust because yyou’re not a damsel in distresa. Believe me.
      Part of the allure of a strip club is women acting like they are attracted by the man, even if it’s pretend.
      normally men are the ones expectes to being the chasers, the pick up-ppers and the ones taking the initiative in sex. All that feels like a job and like having to show the woman how attractive and lovable she is, never the other way around.

  11. I think the article touches a very good point but makes the usual mistake in this site of blaming men for it.
    Women are doing a lousy job at making men feel wanted. In valentines and such you see what women get from men, in tv and movies its always the man doing things for the woman, and its impossible to find comments, articles or posts of women saying good things about men. Even when celebrating men’s day, you get mentions about male violence and domestic violence.
    It’s very hard to find a woman talking about a man being desirable or lovablr without turning it into a complain
    if men don’t feel wanted it’s because the ones who should make them feel that way are not doing it right.

  12. The irony is that when you are actually not wanted, you can still be needed.
    I was married to a closet lesbian (and no, it’s not any fun). Boy was she ever needy. Work, home, family, she was a dream come true for a guy who equates being useful with being loved. But despite putting a roof over, filling the bank account (for her to empty), keeping house and helping to set up a business, not one ounce of affection or appreciation was coming my way. Where was the payoff? I was useful, but not loved. Men are sometimes called a tool as an insult, but tools also fix stuff, and that’s what we try to do best. I was indeed a tool, and was used as such. When she came out, I think she hoped that I would be supportive, as she certainly needed me around as a front for her. But I was at the end of my usefulness. It dawned on me that no matter how hard I tried, I would never be wanted by her, because I quite literally had the wrong tools for the job.
    So I split. It took me 28 seconds to blow up the marriage home and all the work I had put in, because all that I had built was a house of cards. To this day I don’t know what women see in men, other than a paycheck, a workhorse, a hero or a challenge. I’ve decided that I am none of those things anymore, but in doing so, I don’t know what I actually am to them. What I am though is alone, in the black, and reasonably happy, if not satisfied. That may not make much sense. My time is filled with my stuff, my family, my son, my home. If I can’t be any fecking use to a woman, at least I can be useful to myself.


  1. [...] just read an article on The Good Men Project called Men Must Be Needed Because We Can’t Be Wanted. It really hit home for me. I’m dealing with this a lot with my girlfriend and I think [...]

  2. [...] We believe we have to be the heroes only because we can't yet see other roles for ourselves.  [...]

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  4. [...] addition, this is partly a rebuttal to this post that my friend DP linked on his Facebook. He did not write this article, simply was interested in [...]

  5. [...] a great post was published by Noah Brand on The Good Men Project.  Now, you may ask “Why am I linking to this?  It seems really far off from the general [...]

  6. [...] I realized I censor myself. My friends posted an article on Facebook recently. There is SO much in this article that resonates with things I’ve been feeling for a while. I thought about sharing it, but then I censored myself. I thought it might cause a potential mate to pass me over… or that someone might argue with it or be offended. Here it is: [...]

  7. [...] We believe we have to be the heroes only because we can't yet see other roles for ourselves.  [...]

  8. [...] That’s a slightly edited observation from Noah Brand, editor-in-chief of The Good Men Project, and author of a top-read post entitled, “Men Must Be Needed Because We Can’t Be Wanted.” [...]

  9. [...] brilliant, openminded physicist friend from grad school shared the first essay, Men Must Be Needed Because We Can’t Be Wanted.  I read it avidly, hoping to discover some secret about men that I have been missing all these [...]

  10. [...] friend of mine recently sent a link to an article on The Good Man Project that I thought was worth some consideration.  The writer, Noah Brand, [...]

  11. […] “men must be needed because we can’t be wanted” by noah brand, published on on 2013년07월18일 […]

  12. […] be in close fulfilling relationships, independent work, caring fatherhood, or even love itself. Noah Brand has written that because we only know how to be needed, we have trouble being wanted. We have […]

  13. […] como en el trabajo independiente, la paternidad cariñosa o incluso el amor en sí mismo. Noah Brand escribió que, puesto que solo conocemos una forma de ser necesitados, tenemos problemas a la hora […]

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