In my work, I often get asked this question: “Do women really want emotionally connected men? Don’t they say that, but really do want bad boys?” Seems straightforward enough. Seems like a Yes/No question. Yet, it isn’t.
There’s a lot to learn about ourselves when we ask the question.
Become Aware of the Norms (and Challenge Them)
At the risk of being too English-classy, we need to take some time to really dive into what is being asked and what’s being assumed.
First off: using the word “women.”
It’s really important for those of us who have a certain amount of privilege in our society (and if you’re cisgendered, male, straight, white you have more privilege than others) to look at the assumptions of the norms we make when we’re communicating.
“Women” in this question, every time it’s been asked of me at least, is referring to straight, cisgendered women.
Women do not all identify as that, so let’s rephrase: “Do straight, cis-gendered women really want an emotionally connected straight, cisgendered guy?” Yeah, it’s a lot more words, and appears to be oh-so-PC, but only because we’ve been living in our normed bubble for so long. (It’s not totally our fault; we were raised and socialized into it.)
We need to first understand what “women” we’re asking about—not assume that that’s understood—and acknowledge that, if that’s who you’re asking about, that’s also who you’re interested in.
The next assumption that comes into play with this question is this idea that there is some Ur-Woman who finds one type of straight, cis-gendered male attractive. Straight, cis-gendered women are not a monolith who only have one type. Who are only sexually and romantically attracted to one kind of person?
Off the bat, we’re defining our terms and countering our assumptions. What are we really asking here?
Who’s Asking the Question?
Also, let’s turn the question around and look at who wants to know the answer—and why?
It’s not usually the frat boy, alpha male, dudebro who is asking this; he may believe that all women want bad boys, but he’s not asking about it. It’s often someone who does not feel he lives up to what society has deemed as Manly Masculine Man.
I don’t need to delineate this too much. When I’m presenting, I often ask groups to describe a Masculine Man and they all give the same responses:
- Don’t cry
- Won’t as for help
We can make a longer list, but you get the picture.
It’s not the guy who sees himself living up to all this who asks the question. It’s the guy who still feels trapped by the Man Box and the Prison of Masculinity but has so much shame for not embodying it who wants to know that women (straight, cis-gendered women) will want him. Even though, if he’s honest, he’s so down on himself.
He will say that he is the emotionally connected guy that is asking the question.
My answer moves back to him and says, let’s stop focusing on what the other person wants, and focus on you. Let’s put that emotional connectedness to work and talk about what feelings are coming up for you that you are not connecting with the person that you want to connect with. What feelings come up around your not being in the relationship you want. That you aren’ having the sex that you want to have.
What’s that feel like?
There’s a danger here. The danger becomes focusing on the people who aren’t attracted to you and turning your anger around on them. Take this to the extreme and we have the incel’s who feel justified in hurting, raping, and killing women who have made the fatal “mistake” of not being attracted to them.
Does anger come up in you? Well, that’s up there in the Masculine Box—anger is the one emotion we’re often expected and allowed to have. But, let’s push a little deeper though, because anger is often (not always, but often) a secondary emotion that conveniently hides away more vulnerable feelings.
Other things you may feel when someone you want to want you…doesn’t want you.
It may feel temporarily better to blame them for not having the good taste to want to sleep with you or be your partner, but you’ve talked about yourself as emotionally connected. Use that. Turn it toward you and connect with who you are. Who you authentically are. Because connecting with that person, not the person you think you should be, not the person who embodies what Hollywood or society deems as man. But who you are in all your totality. When you can do that, well, that’s damn attractive. That will connect you with other people who are authentically connected to themselves as well.
It’s not easy.
I mean, it’s also not harder than sitting in your pain and anger at not being desired, but it’s less comfortable because it’s more radical. It’s so exciting. I really can’t describe how amazing it is to explore the concept of Radical Acceptance. Of really Knowing Yourself.
Friendships, family relationships, career, and romantic partnerships all start to deepen and you become (and feel) freer. That’s the way out of the Man Box.
“Crush a Stereotype or two”
Photo credit: Getty Images