Imagine! Young Men Aren’t the Sex-Crazed Zombies We Think They Are

Lisa Hickey reviews Andrew Smiler’s new book that shatters stereotypes of young male sexuality.

Stereotypes abound when it comes to men. “All men cheat.” “He can’t keep it in his pants.” “Men only talk about beer, sex and sports.” And as soon as it gets in revealed in the media that a man had sex with someone, the media seems to gleefully trot out the example as “See, all men are like this!”

So it’s a breath of fresh air to have Andrew Smiler come along and do a comprehensive, sweeping analysis and in-depth research that says, “Not true, not true, not true. Oh, and that stereotype over there? Not true either.” His book, Challenging Casanova: Beyond the Stereotype of the Promiscuous Young Male debunks the myth that teenage boys and young men are barely able to control their sex drives. Unlike Giacomo Casanova, whose name became synonymous with promiscuity and “womanizer”, Smiler shows us in multiple ways that boys actually want relationships. “Imagine what would happen,” writes Smiler, “If we widen the options so that boys and men are encouraged to enjoy relationships.” How much better would that be than feeling put upon to act like an 18th century Italian whose last years were filled with isolation, despair and boredom?

At the Good Men Project we like nothing better than to take stereotypes about men and crush them into oblivion. Our favorite stereotype-crushing method is storytelling. Andrew Smiler combines storytelling with a detailed and encompassing look at the data on young male sexuality to conclude that the “Casanova Complex” describes only a minority of men. On average, says Smiler, Casanova-like promiscuity that goes on for over a year is no more than 5% of the population.

But the real problem, and the crux of Smiler’s book, is the harm that this myth can have when it comes to boys who are coming of age. “If we educate boys that acting like Casanova is the norm,” he states, “we’re giving our kids incorrect information. That’s irresponsible behavior by the adults.”

Stereotypes are deep-seated. Smiler takes me back to my own childhood with this reminiscence:

When I was growing up, we boys used a baseball metaphor; each of these was a base and sex was a homerun or scoring a run. This metaphor was sufficiently well known to show up in popular media, perhaps most notably Meatloaf‟s “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights” – the baseball announcer tells us what‟s happening in the back seat of the car.

The Casanova Complex tells us that the important part of sexuality is getting laid and having more partners than other guys. And if there’s one thing the baseball metaphor is especially good at, it’s keeping score.

First of all, I hate to break it to guys, but us girls were talking about the exact same metaphor. And secondly, here’s why it’s so harmful:

In baseball, you play a game against an opponent. If your framework for sex is that a guy’s role is to push for more sexual contact and try to get around the bases, and that a girl’s job is to be a sexual “gatekeeper” and say no, then you’ve got a scenario where the people who are having sex together are also opponents. Guys who endorse “traditional” notions of masculinity, including the Casanova Complex, tend to adopt this kind of adversarial description of romantic relationships. Of course, that’s consistent with our cultural conception of a “battle of the sexes,” even though 90% of us are sleeping with – and will marry – the “enemy.”

And yet the whole notion of “keeping score” is not only a harmful metaphor—it turns out it’s not even what most guys want. When it comes to dating and why guys want romantic relationships, writes Smiler, he finds that guys motives are actually “complex and multifaceted.” What guys want, explains Smiler, and “it doesn’t matter if we’re asking 14 year olds or 20 year olds or older” is companionship, connection, emotional support and intimacy, fitting in with peers – and oh, yeah, physical intimacy. Sounds pretty human to me.

As Smiler says in his introduction:

The Casanova Complex distorts all of our perceptions about what’s normal for guys. It tells us that guys are primarily interested in sex, not relationships. This contributes to the notion that guys are emotional clods who are incapable of connecting with their partners because, hey, they’re just guys and guys are only interested in sex. As a result, guys shouldn’t be expected to achieve any type of “real” emotional intimacy with their partners.

As I said at the start, we’re all about smashing stereotypes here at The Good Men Project. And Andrew Smiler just gave me one big, important, thoughtful, well-researched book to help do so.

Buy a copy of “Challenging Casanova: Beyond The Stereotype of the Promiscuous Male” here.

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About Lisa Hickey

Lisa Hickey is CEO of Good Men Media Inc. and publisher of the Good Men Project. "I like to create things that capture the imagination of the general public and become part of the popular culture for years to come." Connect with her on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Richard Aubrey says:

    I suppose we might profitably look for the origin of the myth.

    Said it before: Back in the day, I was a fraternity graduate adviser, loosely employed by the Dean of Students, plugging me into various issues. The guys we had to watch were the ones whose girlfriends dumped them, not the guys who couldn’t get laid this weekend.
    Not hard to drink yourself into the campus health center with a bottle of Jim Beam.

    Yeah, given the evidence, we might inquire whose idea the myth was.

  2. Imagine! Young Men Aren’t the Sex-Crazed Zombies We Think They Are

    Well – if the young give up and stop being Sex-Crazed Zombies, it will just put more pressure upon the middle aged and Alter Kockers to up hold the stereotypes.

    Buy shares in Viagra and Testosterone Patches now!

  3. Relationships full of sex for many men:P Probably far more sex than the average woman wants, which is a problem.

  4. You know, I always took the baseball metaphor differently.
    Not as in playing against an opponent that you have to “beat” or get around. But more as in you have to get the other person on your team and play the same set of rules, to get the bases together.

    Because, you know… As long as the other person says no, none of you are gettin’ any.

    • I thought it was just about being excited that you got lucky, like woohoo finally I’m not a virgin. I never took it as getting a hundred homeruns with others, but only a goal to SHARE with a woman.

  5. Mr Supertypo says:

    some have the Casanova complex, and others have not. Both of them are legitimate.

  6. Yes. Young people have a more difficult time assessing the sexual and emotional risks of rubbing body parts together, but I’m not sure that is really a myth. Intimacy develops much like any other social behavior and is not torpedoed by the casual style hook ups of the younger piglets. On the contrary, these hook ups may be the required ebbs and flow of mistakes required to properly develop the ability of intimacy.

    I have not read your book Andrew, but to be honest, from this and the other article, this seems like more of an attempt at risk mitigation than the shattering of a myth.

  7. Well, I’m early 20s in a loving LTR, and wouldn’t change a thing, but I would certainly put myself in the sex crazed zombie category quite happily. My girlfriend is a wonderful person, but without the sex I wouldn’t bother wasting my time. Luckily she’s DTF pretty much all the time (or however much I can handle without my body falling apart…), and I’ve worked hard at getting very good at keeping her panties wet for me. Relationship game is a wonderful thing.

  8. I have noticed this in my 18 year old nephew. He is attractive, very charming, and constantly being hit on by female peers but totally devoted to romance with his first love. He does tell me most of his male peers are dogs, but that only makes him more aware of what a catch he is!

  9. Life Lessons says:

    Hallelujah!!!

  10. And the biggest thing in the way of fighting this stereotype will be the experiences of many females.
    Of course, most boys or even men will not be Casanovas in that sense. Most men just dont have access to that much sex. I think it would have been better to figure out how many teen boys/young men want to be Casanovas rather than how many actually are.

    In my experience it seems like men want to have a lot of sex then maybe find love in the process. In all fairness, this changes when men hit like 50 and the hormones aren’t raging as much. Just listening to young men or even most men talk, it is mostly about sex- how much they want it, how they need variety, etc. Its very difficult for me and many other women I’ve known to not believe sex is not a man’s primary interest.

    • ONE of our main drives, not our main drive. Men want intimacy, to be cared for, loved, respected too. I know very few men that truly want casual sex vs a relationship. We probably do have sex to find love at times but that’s more about sex soothing the soul for a while in our search for love. Like walking a jungle, you eat a few berries to keep strength up to find that nice big animal to omnomnom. Silly analogy but you get my point (hopefully).

      My primary drives include in no order: Sex, companionship, trust, warmth n comfort, doing fun stuff together. They all intermix and make each other feel even better. I want love, but if I can’t find love then sex will do in the meantime whilst I wait n hopefully who I have sex with I fall for and she falls for me.

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