The title is, to be fair, an overgeneralization. These things are not universally true of all men, and there definitely are women out there who know and understand some or all of them. By and large, though, these are five areas where communication between the two most popular genders tends to break down on grounds of incomprehension. Women, this might help explain a few things.
1. We are starved for compliments.
There’s an old rule men learn about flirting with women: if a woman’s pretty, don’t expect to impress her by telling her so. People have been telling her that every single day since puberty, and it no longer even registers as anything other than background noise.
On the other hand, most men have never been told they’re pretty. Or attractive at all. We’re supposed to derive value from our success and careers, not our looks, and there is an overwhelming cultural narrative that we are the wanter, not the wanted, the pursuer, not the pursued, the desiring, not the desirable.
Tell a man (other than Ryan Gosling) that he’s pretty, and you will have his undivided attention. You may well be the first person ever to say that to him. Do not assume that an attractive man knows he’s attractive. The opposite is probably the case.
2. We are not more shallow than women are.
Sure, some guys only go for women who look like magazine advertisements. Some women do the same thing with guys. But when most women get together with their trusted friends and talk about men, there’s a rich diversity of attraction that gets talked about. They’ll talk about a guy’s sexy voice, or the way he holds them in his sleep, or the look on his face when he’s passionate about something, or the lines of his hands. When they do talk about the face and the body, it’s not all sharp cheekbones and ripped abs, there’s all kinds of types that different women find attractive for their own reasons.
And yet there’s a stereotype that men don’t do the exact same thing. Believe me, we do. When actual grown-up men get together and talk girls, there’s an awful lot of “I love the way she tells the truth, just straight-out with no bullshit.” and “It’s the freckles. I cannot resist her freckles.” and “When she giggles a certain way I just want to jump her right there.”
Oh, we do dig the physical aspects, too, very much so, but again, it’s not about the women in magazines and commercials. Grown men can tell the difference between an airbrushed plastic image designed by a marketing department, and a real live woman. We have a very wide range of tastes and types in terms of what we find sexy in a woman, and anyone who tells you different is probably trying to sell you something.
3. There’s a reason for that emotional repression.
I’m often surprised by how little most women know about the experience of being a teenage boy. It really shouldn’t be surprising; there’s almost no realistic depictions in media of teenagers of any gender. I mean, when was the last time you saw a teenage girl on TV or in a movie acting like teenage girls act in real life?
Short version: testosterone is a hell of a drug. Those who’ve taken it as adults as part of a gender transition tend to report intense cravings for physical catharsis, flashes of inexplicable rage, and similar effects. And that’s taking it on purpose, knowing that it’s a drug, with an adult level of brain development and emotional maturity. Now imagine that happening to you without warning when you’re thirteen and have no idea what’s going on.
Almost every adult man walking around spent at least part of his adolescence dealing with sourceless, purposeless anger and a desire for violent catharsis. It’s like having a little devil on your shoulder constantly making the same unhelpful suggestion.
“I don’t know how I’m going to deal with this test Friday, I can’t cope.”
“Have you considered… VIOLENCE?”
“Shut up, shoulder devil, nobody asked you. Hmmm, what do I want for lunch…”
“Have you considered… VIOLENCE?”
“Shoulder devil that is NOT EVEN A FOOD.”
And so on. We spend years learning that our immediate emotional responses to things are absolutely not to be trusted. The first response to an emotional impulse must be to ignore it and repress it, just for safety. The men who didn’t learn that reflex? They’re the ones with criminal records for assault.
Once we mature out of adolescence, the hormones calm down and we’re fine, but at that point the cultural conditioning has been drilled in beyond repair, a million repetitions of “man up” and “crying is for girls” and on and on and on. What was a safety precaution in high school becomes a socially mandated norm, and that’s why, over the course of my life, I’ve shed more tears over the “Marseillaise” scene in Casablanca than I have over my mother’s death. (Though to be fair, I’ve seen Casablanca probably twenty times, and my mother’s only died once.)
4. We are sick of being success objects.
This is one of those things most men don’t even have the vocabulary to talk about. It’s a nameless pain, an unspoken discontent that eats away at far too many men. Just as women too often feel defined solely by their looks and their dress size, so too are men taught that our worth as human beings comes from our career, our bank balance, our success.
All those gold-digger jokes, all those lines about “So what if he’s short—he can stand on his wallet”… we know on a deep level that they’re not jokes. Those lines about how the job of a husband and father is keeping the bills paid—we understand those. We know that our attractiveness, our worth, our contribution to our families is all about how much money we can make. And it’s exhausting.
Some guys get resentful, thinking that even their loved ones just see them as a walking wallet. Some guys get tired, feeling like no matter what they make, it’ll never be good enough. Some guys spend their whole lives ashamed, having had it beaten into them that they’re only worth what they’ve got in the bank, and taking poverty or financial reversals as a deep personal failure. It eats away at us daily in a thousand little microaggressions, all the ways we’re made to feel Not Good Enough, when what they mean is Not Rich Enough.
5. Yes, we actually do need to adjust ourselves like that.
This one’s less of a major emotional issue, but seriously, enough with the jokes about how weird and gross it is. The equipment shifts around, it changes shape and size, it chafes, and it is very very sensitive. When it gets uncomfortable, it gets very uncomfortable indeed, so cut us a little slack, could you?
Stock photo ID:531395810
Hi there. My first visit to this site. I’m glad there is a platform available for men to explore masculinity, identity and share their experiences. My only problem with this article is that it pits the genders against each other slightly. Even the title assumes female ignorance of male issues – I get it, lots of women are ignorant but jeez please don’t tar us all with the same brush. All genders have challenges to face. No one’s ride is easy. I love that you’re sharing these things but it doesn’t need to become a competition. Sexual objectification of girls… Read more »
#NotAllMen was the exact same thing you’re talking about and yet it was taken down as sexist so technically #YesAllWomen. Having said that you are correct, obviously nothing applies to everyone which is why the #NotAllMen hashtag came about, men were sick of being accused of things that simply are not true on a blanket level. It’s absolutely horrible always being lumped in with people for whom there is no relation. Now you know, even at a trivial level (so not at all) what it feels like. For a guy it’s everywhere. At school and at work we’re told not… Read more »
So, why do women get flack for “being hormonal” but men don’t?!! I know that most men don’t have any idea about the melange of hormones (not just testosterone–but it gets all the attention because of the obvious physical manifestation) that control their thoughts, attitudes and behaviors, and that those hormones fluctuate with predictable influence and even some cyclicity. Disruptions cause major issues in men, too. BUT, because most men are blind that this is going on inside them, women are deemed the hormonal ones. We all are walking hormone soup with different flavors all the time!
Women are deemed hormonal because women have a predictible pattern of hormone controlled behavior (as in women act differently at certain times in the cycle and on a general level all act the same this way, hornier during ovulation, moodier after, etc). For guys the hormonal changes are not so well defined. They are mostly triggered by things and so therefore a lot more random. Where you are mostly wrong is that men know it’s happening, we just can’t talk about it which makes it worse. We know what the effects of testosterone on us are, it’s obvious and taught… Read more »
I think all men can be a bit more complicated. But who likes to be used ,accused and blamed for everything. What I think men really want is to be respected and loved and told that they are valued as a person. A place where they feel useful, and not just for money and sex.
And to stop being lumped into a big group (aka #YesAllMen).
Well, done, Noah. If ONLY you hadn’t called it ‘equipment’.*
Okay, you lost me right there in example two when you wrote “when men get together and talk GIRLS”. Dude, a GIRL is 17 and under. If you’re a man talking about GIRLS, I don’t want to know you. I’m sick of men condescending to grown WOMEN by referring to us as GIRLS. I avoid men who do this like the plague because it tells me where their emotional maturity level is at.
Because semantics define maturity? Now THATS shallow. I can refer to a bowl as a dish, a car as a ride, a kite as a wind catcher thingy, and not a single one of those has to do with maturity level.not everybody thinks it demeaning to say “girls”, nor does everyone think or talk exactly like you. May i suggest not completely dismissing human beings over their choice of wording?
And yet there are plenty of women that refer to men as boys.
Ok, first. Wemon are genetically girls, and men are genetically boys. If you say, ” that little girl, ” or , “that little boy,” I can see how it can be offensive. Lady is probably a better term, “this lady over here,” or ,” that lady is fine!”. I personally don’t mind being called girl.its what I am, so what.
Women refer to men as boys all the time. Men refer to women as girls. Women refer to women as girls and men refer to men as boys. Going out with the boys. He’s going out with the boys. I’m going out with the girls. She’s going out with the girls. Teen boys get together and talk about teen girls, men get together and talk about women. Using the term girls allows you to be a bit less specific (both teen boys and men talk about girls vs what I just mentioned, teen boys talk about teen girls, men talk… Read more »
Is it the shallowness of one gender or the shallowness of some of the commentators. Not very sophisticated, I would say. Just like any other internet forum. You know, I can tell the gender of the commentator without reading his/her name. it is not a war, people. We are trying to understand our relationships better.
I run confidence and dating programs for guys. As a woman I love how much I’ve learnt to understand and appreciate men … watching them transform and believe in themselves.
They teach me as much as I teach them sometimes.
In 10 years of a relationship and marriage, I only received one real complement from my ex. And it was after she filed for divorce.
She makes twice as much as I do, and is suing me for child support.
So yeah, spot on. Well said. Etc.
Really interesting stuff and , quite bizarrely, I was saying as I read it that ‘I’ve never read anything like this!’
If we’re truly in an era where everyone is – more or less – trying to be equal, which is how it should be, then these topics should be discussed and noticed. Cheers, I feel unexpectedly empowered!
I loved this article and it addressed one of my anxieties as a woman, because most of the statements I’ve heard from emen in my life concerning femala attractiveness made the search image of desireability sound very narrow. Singles ads, (which I haven’t read for decades, lucky me) are very narrow. There seems in our culture to be ONE kind of body type men like and if you aren’t one of the demi-goddess 5% who naturally HAVE it, you’re out of luck. You’ll always be treated like a side dish, when you do manage to get the attention of a… Read more »
But that is true; most men would want a kind and sweet woman… who is one of the demi-goddess 5% who naturally have it. They are their dream and most men would definitely want their women to be one of these. When they go for other types of women that is just because they know they could never get one of the 5% and is “settling for less”, because you know how all men deserve a woman who looks like a demi-godess and all. To most men, the more physically beautiful a woman is the more value she has as… Read more »
Seriously Suzana; take a look around! Go to the grocery store, Wal-Mart, Target, where-ever. Look at the couples that are there shopping. Look at the married couples, the non-married couples, the young couples and the old couples. You will find that the majority of people stay within their own class when it comes to picking a partner! Attractive people are with attractive people. The not so attractive people are with the not so attractive people. You talk about women forgiving men for their hairy bodies, balding heads, non-symmetrical faces, (as though women don’t have non-symmetrical faces,) etc., What about women’s… Read more »
The emotional repression isn’t always about violence. I recall being teased in junior high school that every time I put my hands in my pockets (an ordinary habit for an awkward teenager), I was “playing with myself,” as it were. Needless to say, this stopped me from putting my hands in my pockets, or talking about anything even remotely emotional, like my family problems or whatever.
” I recall being teased in junior high school that every time I put my hands in my pockets (an ordinary habit for an awkward teenager), I was “playing with myself,” as it were.”
Ahahahaha! 😀 Life was really hard, I see! 😛
But really, you are being super totally sarcastic when you say that was such a big, BIG emotional repression that you even stopped talking about family problems, right? Right? Come on dude.
You really did yourself a disservice by leading with this:
“On the other hand, most men have never been told they’re pretty. Or attractive at all. We’re supposed to derive value from our success and careers, not our looks.”
Cry me a river. I wish I was judged on something as meaningful and within my control.
Hey Kelly- I can tell you’re hurting- that’s what you’re trying to communicate. You need compassion for the pain you’ve been under for a long time, same as almost every woman. The ones who fail to give you that compassion fail to do so because they too are in pain. When you say “as meaningful and within my control”, there’s a little bit of misunderstanding of many men’s perspectives. Noah is proving right now that he doesn’t care about success so much- he wished it didn’t define him. That isn’t meaningful to him, and it may be partially under his… Read more »
I know right. And sucess and carrer can go forever. Looks always fade.
Not only that, sucess is relative. Be a doctor and you are a hero, as a man. Be a doctor… are you still pretty, as a woman?
Women in general only want a guy who works and has ambition… men want the beautiful woman, and the beauty standards is high.
Why aren’t you pretty when you’re a woman doctor? Those thick rimmed glasses are some of the sexiest MILF accessories on the planet. When you say “in general” and men as an encapsulation of all men, you are not speaking for all of us. That woman being a doctor, well she’s my hero. Why not? She’s gotta be there dealing with fluids, blood, disease, dying patients, grieving family members, a hectic schedule, sleep deprivation, and so on and so on. My job as a machine operator where heavy presses could chop my limbs off, is nothing compared to the stress… Read more »
Kelly, did you even read point #4, “Men are tired of being success objects.”? It’s funny, women want men to compliment them more of their accomplishments and not so much their appearance, while men want women to compliment them more on their appearance and not so much of their acomplisments all the time.
Yeah, testosterone, that’s the reason. All the guys that beat & abused their girlfriends or vandalized the neighbors’ houses & cars were just helplessly poisoned by the natural hormones every single male has. I’ve known some calm, trustworthy males that had the exact same hormones as the ones who were abusive, dangerous idiots. The thing that separates them, barring mental illness or substance problems, is a moral character with a respect for themselves & others & grow up to be responsible & worthy gentlemen. What a crock to blame all your problems & the trail of destruction you leave on… Read more »
Hey dude, literally everything you do is based on horomones and stuff in your head, regardless, I tend to believe that every negative show is caused by an inner hurt or fear of hurt. it just gets twisted and distorted the more time it spends sick. And I’d much rather that everyone “bad” was just everyone “sick” because you can make sick well again, but you can’t turn a 0 into a 1.
Well.. thank you!
It seems weird that I truly din’t know all of the things written in this article, as in I felt I should have known them… Thank you for the honesty!
The “There’s a reason for that emotional repression” is scary. I do not think I want to live with someone that has so much urge to be violence. Someone 3x my strength and sexually attracted to me… and that violent. No. Never again. But I get that is the norm now. That breaks my heart though. The “We are sick of being success objects” is also weird. Most women are very open about how much their bfs/husbands matter to them, and it is most of the times not about his money at all. Most women work and want a man… Read more »
You obviously came into this with your opinions pre-decided, unable (more importantly unWILLING) to modify them, or even see them challenged. You not only took the time to argue against this, but you used it as an excuse to strengthen your conviction that your misconceptions are correct and unassailable. That alone frightens me more than any of the pointless urges I was forced to repress. It breaks my heart that you would be unquestioningly trusted to raise any boy unlucky enough to share a home with you.
Sleeping with the enemy? Try being raised by her.
Let me see if I got your points. Yes, of course I came with many opinions. Everyone who is an adult have their formed opinions, that can change or not. Now about modifying them… sure I could, I just don’t see any reason to do so, at least not with this article or your comment. What opinions (“misconceptions” as you said) you believe “should” be modified – in your opinion? On the violence matter, he said it all. On the “value because of money” I see things differently in the real world. I am sorry if men will believe the… Read more »
That’s because you’re blind to your privilege, Suzana. Why are so many women so disparaging of the lived experiences of men?
And most women don’t want men that are taller than them? I know a lot of women who refuse to date a man that’s shorter than she is. As for hairy legs and hairy arm pits. I don’t mind. I was with a woman that went weeks without shaving her armpits or legs during the winter. I didn’t care. She felt disgusted by it, when it got to be too long, so she would shave it then, That or if she had to dress up or wear a dress. So no, not all men demand that their woman be shaved… Read more »
Noah, A friend of mine (woman) drew my attention to this. Generally a lot of favourable comment on the ensuing FB discussion, but dispute of Point 3. I joined late, and added this: “Regarding his 3rd para: “There’s a reason for that emotional repression.” My quibble is – and it’s a big one – Repression of ‘male energy’ starts a lot earlier than the teen years, and is learned from adults via direct messages (often enforced with violence) – mainly from dads or the nearest surrogate male role model. Either I was abnormal, or I experienced the norm: no sudden… Read more »
Yes! A voice of reason. That didn’t sit well with me either, but the rest of the article is fantastic. I really enjoyed this. Thanks:)
Ged, just wanted to say thank you for sharing your insights. I think puberty is an equally frustrating and confusing process for both genders. Perhaps, more so for boys/men as girls/women are “allowed” to express their feelings and thoughts more freely or openly than their male counterparts. Cheers, SMT
Well if White Men (the ones in power) granted equal rights to minorities including women then it would be different wouldn’t it? If there are 124 million white women in this country then they should be the most represented and have the largest margin of opportunity by the current ideology. Men are just as superficial as women sometimes worse just about different things so that’s a case by case.
why did you just get so defensive? i don’t think there was any blame in this article at all. and your argument is kind of tough to follow
Mmm.. I guess you missed the point of the article. It talks about peer pressure and meeting standards but there’s no hint about any political POV. Your answer is full of it, tough.
As a white man, I grant women and minorites equal rights!
Best comment ever!
Hah! As a brown guy, I concur.
This has absolutely no relevance to this article.
Hold yer horses there…wha?? You realize this a human development article and not a social agenda on race and gender? Men in any culture have similar expectations and pressures, it materializes differently in different cultures. I don’t think his argument was completely focused on superficiality but on the male experience. Take a deep breathe…and relax!
Dear Noah. I truly appreciate what you have written. Thank you for this insight into men. Made me really think and smile in appreciation of the men I have known and how shocked some were when I told them they were beautiful/handsome. I also smiled when I read the description of who you are. Nicely done. Shared on my Twitter and Facebook accounts and I am looking forward to my friends commenting on it.
Please, resist titling your articles like they belong on the cover of Cosmo or Maxim. These blanket generalizations about all men and all women are troublesome from both sides of the aisle. I’m sorry someone told you to not compliment women. They were wrong. Women always appreciate compliments about their appearance, their personality, their spirit..whatever. YOU like compliments, so why wouldn’t women? You’re surprised by how little women know about being a teenage boy?!? How would women know, unless they grew up with brothers? Seriously. You’re not shallow, but if not for adjusting an “innate” impulse for violence you’d have… Read more »
Great article. While the insights are good, it’s important to realize that the information doesn’t apply to all guys. To say that all guys like compliments is too general. Not all guys are impervious to their own attractiveness. Some guys are uncomfortable with compliments. Yes, guys do sometimes need to adjust themselves, however, it’s good manners, social courtesy to do it in the most discrete way. Go into a bathroom if one is available. My nipples (I’m a woman) are lage, they sometimes need to be adjusted. Making a show out of a guy adjusting their crotch is what is… Read more »
Again, great article to get me thinking about it from a man’s point of view. However, I would say that for those men out there who are convinced that ‘most’ women seek out someone who makes more money then them and judge the man on that, I would ask – is that really most women, or simply most women that YOU attract or are attracted to? Being in the field of self-help and in fact being aware of what we are ‘putting out there’ I think it depends on the two of you – what type of woman you end… Read more »
A message to the author Noah Brand –
1. Thank you for writing this.
2. Suggestion: Bold the first sentence of this article. We humans tend to skip directly to the bold. Bolding the first sentence will get more people to read it and not make instant judgments.
Happy New Year!
Great points. Thank you for helping us understand you better. I used to be all about beautiful men (and would gush about it to them!), until I got really burned by the emotional immaturity behind most of them. Lesson learned. Now I am attracted to men with “three balls” (my term). Meaning, I am attracted to men who have confidence and power. Success is a part of it. A man who doesn’t feel successful will and does try to derive his sense of “manhood” from having hot women in his arm. A comedian once said, “There are guys and there… Read more »
Thanks Noah for your article. Appreciate it.
Checkout my article on Are We Raising Our Boys to Be Emotionally Literate?
Again, Thanks, Sherri
I really like this website and most of it’s articles. I was just thinking about this earlier today as I have met a new man just 9 days ago, we’ve been in constant contact since the moment we met and I’ve seen him three times since then. He is amazing, so far. Kind, thoughtful, family man. For some reason, I feel like he lacks a little self esteem. I want him to know that I think about him all the time, so against friends advice, I send him cutesie texts in the morning to wish him a good day, tell… Read more »